Noble quarterback Brandon Drake and the Knights enter 2019 with a new offensive attack and a confidence that has been building for several years. (TAMMY BELANGER PHOTOGRAPHY)

Quarterback Brandon Drake won’t have to wait long for a chance to put his most disappointing performance of last season – a loss at the hands of the Gorham Rams – in the rearview mirror. 

Noble High opens its regular season against Gorham on Sept. 6, a game the senior captain has had circled on his calendar for months. 

“I am so ready for it,” Drake said. “It’s our senior year … We want to show everybody in the state what we can do. We know we can do great things.” 

Gone from the Noble sideline is last year’s head coach, Kelly Smith, but the Knights return a plethora of talent, including Drake, senior running back Matt Beerworth and senior h-back Blake Ouellette, to a program that made the playoffs for the first time last year since 2006. 

New head coach Keenon Blindow served as the Knights’ defensive coordinator last season, and he has implemented a spread offense in his first year on the job. Drake, who didn’t play a sport in the spring, spent his newfound freedom in the gym, studying the playbook and developing chemistry with his receiving corps in preparation for a revamped passing attack. 

The new offense, which calls for more progressions and responsibilities from the quarterback, took some time to get the feel of during the early stages of camp, but Drake showed his comfortability moving in the pocket and surveying the field while being rushed by defenders toward the end of the first week. 

 “He’s put in a lot of work,” Blindow said. “He puts the time into the playbook, he studies, he does a fantastic job overall. He’s prepared for a great season.” 

One of the keys to reaching their goals, a shot at the Class B championship, in Drake’s opinion, will be the way the Knights handle their successes over the course of the season. Last year, said Drake, the Knights became overconfident after a 4-1 start, which he thinks played a role in the team’s 1-3 finish. 

It’s not that this group of Knights isn’t confident, though. Most of the 16 seniors on this year’s roster have played together since eighth-grade. Their sophomore season – the first year Drake started at quarterback – the Knights finished 1-7. When Noble clinched a winning record in a home game against York last year, Drake couldn’t help but feel a sense of accomplishment.

“It’s been great to see where it’s come from since my freshman year. There’s nothing like it – to see us turn from a 1-7 program … to make the playoffs,” he said. “We knew coming into high school that we could be good, and I think that we are going to prove that this year.” 

Drake credits Smith for helping to create a culture change within the program before the former Noble High coach left for a different position. When he entered high school, Drake said, there was a noticeable disconnect between the older and younger players on the football team. That bridge is now built and the program is reaping the benefits with approximately 60 kids participating at various levels. 

“The freshman are next up in this program,” Drake said. “We want to make sure that they are getting their reps, they are getting their time. I think since my freshman year, we’ve gotten a lot better at that.” 

Drake is someone the underclassmen look up to, said Blindow. When one of them needs a ride, Drake, among other Knights, is curbside ready with a lift to practice and some advice on how to make an impact on the field. It’s all about “W.I.N.” or “What’s Important Now” for Noble, a concept Blindow has preached to each one of his players. 

“We talk about embracing the process,” Blindow said. “It’s a lot of work and it’s a long season,” What’s important now is to take it one play at a time, one day at a time.” 

While the offense gets up to speed with a new system, Blindow is confident that his defense, led by Ouellette at linebacker, will be a strength of the team. Blindow knows the offense will come around, and when it does, he knows firsthand how difficult it is to stop a spread offense. 

He also knows that he’s got a solid right arm to lean on when havoc breaks loose. 

“We want to get our athletes in space,” Blindow said. “And we’ve got a quarterback who is pretty confident and can throw the ball.” 

 

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