The 2019 regional championship was a nightmare for South Adams. The Starfires, who averaged just over 43 points in their first 12 games and had scored at least two touchdowns in every other contest, fell 19-7 against rival Adams Central.
This time, South Adams (12-0) rose to the occasion, winning 48-35 in the Class A regional Friday and handing Southwood its first loss of the season. Quarterback James Arnold threw for 435 yards and five touchdowns, and ran in another touchdown right before halftime. He had only thrown for more yards once in his high school career, tallying 471 in the regular-season meeting against Adams Central in 2019, and his six touchdowns matched his career best, which he set against Lewis Cass in August.
Drew Stutzman and Aiden Wanner each had more than 100 receiving yards Friday (Stutzman had 162, Wanner 128), and both caught two touchdown passes and had an interception of Southwood quarterback Alex Farr.
Nick Miller racked up 67 rushing yards and scored a touchdown – despite the fact that he had barely played the position all year, and was filling in for Christian Summersett.
On defense, Austin Gorney accounted for 71/2 total tackles, including three for a loss.
But perhaps the most important number is 2: Two more games to win if the Starfires are to win the first football state title in the school's history.
“It was very much awaited. We'd worked nine months since we last lost to AC on their field. It's been our fuel since then,” Stutzman said. “You can look right now, we brought that all out tonight. It means the world to us, me and my team. It means the world to everyone.”
E. Noble seniors leave their mark
East Noble's 28-20 loss to Marion in the Class 4A regional at home Friday ended the Knights' chances of returning to the state championship game for a second straight year. The loss doesn't diminish what the East Noble seniors accomplished in their four years, however.
When this group – Cole Schupbach, Justin Marcellus, Jacob VanGorder, et al. – entered high school, the Knights had won three sectional titles in their history. In the last two years, East Noble has captured a pair of sectional crowns, a regional title, a semistate championship and a Northeast 8 conference title.
“When I came back to East Noble to be the head coach, they had had all this success in the early 2000s,” Knights coach Luke Amstutz said. “Then it was a lot of six-win seasons and seven-win seasons. There's always been success every year, but I wanted to set a standard that we expect to win championships every year. ... I think this group is a huge key part of reviving that tradition of making football the thing that every little kid wants to do around here.
“My own son, he loves this team. The kids in this town, this community, they love football and they respect these kids. ... They have a lot of memories and a lot to talk about for the rest of their lives.”
Schupbach, who stepped in to play quarterback early in the season and led East Noble to six-straight wins after a 3-3 start, said the relationships with his teammates are more important than what will end up in the trophy case.
“Just the friendships and the brotherhood I've made with all of those guys,” Schupbach said. “All the trophies, they don't mean a thing. It's just the memories and the love I have for everyone. That's what really counts.”