Noble linebackers Blake Ouellette and Matt Place will lead the Knights’ defense against Marshwood tonight. PAT McDONALD/Journal Tribune

The Noble High football team is off to its best start in years with a 4-1 record and a firm grip of a playoff spot in Class B South.
Up next for the Knights is a chance to really make a statement as they face the rival Marshwood Hawks, who are the defending state champs and won three of the last four Class B Gold Balls.
“I don’t know. I haven’t even looked and I’m not too interested to look,” said Noble head coach Kelly Smith on when the last time Noble beat Marshwood. “Marshwood is a tough team. Every year coach (Alex) Rotsko puts together a heck of a team. He knows what he’s doing and he’s a great coach. That’s the standard that we have to beat. If you want to move on and want to get through playoffs, that’s the team to beat.”
While tonight’s game is clearly important for both teams, the Knights are focusing on the little things and trying to make this a regular Friday night contest.
“It’s always a game that we think about, but we’re just going to treat it like every other game and go out there and play like we know how to play,” said Noble junior Blake Ouellette.
“We’re just going to treat it like any other game, go out there and give it everything we’ve got,” added senior Matt Place.
The Knights, who dropped a Week 3 game at Biddeford, have surprised some people in Class B — and players are giving credit to Smith for changing the culture at Noble.
“I think we’re looking pretty good. We’re just more like a unit this year. We just work hard and we’re really close … it’s a lot different. We have our ups and downs, but we’re like a family,” said Ouellette.
Place echoed that sentiment.
“This is the best year I’ve had at Noble with just the culture change and everyone (just playing as) a team,” said Place.
Smith has been happy with how the players have bought into his system in his second season.
“These guys came out and they have embraced this idea that ‘I trust the guy on my left. I trust the guy on my right and he’s going to trust me. We all do our job, but we are part of the bigger culture, part of the team.’ Noble hasn’t had that in a while where they are able to go ‘we’re a cohesive unit,’” said Smith. “They are playing together. They are fighting together … every, single down in the trenches they are battling together.”
The new mentality has blended nicely with a plethora of talent to push the Knights back into relevance in Class B South.
“We have Bryson Lessard who is running hard. We have Matt Beerworth who is running hard. You have (quarterback) Brandon Drake where you don’t know if he’s going to hand that ball off, if he’s taking it or if he’s making that pass,” said Smith on some of his skill players. “Between this group of guys, they have got some serious talent and they are putting that talent together. They have always had talent, but they are finally putting it together.”
It also helps to have a pair of middle linebackers like Ouellette and Place leading the way on defense.
“They can move to the ball, they can flow to the ball really well,” said Smith of his linebackers.
Ouellette and Place push each other when they are on the field together.
“It’s fun. We make it a little competition and see who can make the most tackles,” said Ouellette.
Other than their 44-21 loss at Biddeford, the Knights have only given up 22 points — including a pair of shutouts — in their four wins this year.
“We just go out there and give 100 percent,” said Ouellette of the Noble defense. “We work hard all week at practice and we just do what the coaches preach and go out there and execute what the coaches want us to execute.”
The Knights’ D will face its toughest test tonight against the undefeated Hawks, but Smith believes they enter the game with one major edge — they have “nothing to lose.”
“They have the chance now to go out there and just go ‘you know what? We’re the underdogs. We don’t expect anyone to vote for us in the newspaper or to pick us on any (TV) stations and that’s fine with us … we’ve got nothing to lose. We’ve got everything to gain and nothing to lose so let’s go out there and give it our all,’” said Smith.

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