Looking for one more win

NEW PALESTINE — Noah Grable bee-lined the question as if in hot pursuit of a scrambling quarterback.

Initially snubbed from the 2015 Community Chrysler All-Star Classic roster when the teams were announced nearly five months ago, New Palestine’s all-time leader in sacks didn’t need to mince words.

The numbers alone upheld his response.

Named the state’s top defensive lineman as the Indiana Mr. Football position award winner this past winter, Grable was an all-star even before he was invited to join the South squad in late May.

“Honestly, I felt like I earned the recognition for the the great season that we had,” remarked Grable, who helped lead the Class 4A Dragons to a perfect 15-0 season and the program’s first football state title in 2014. “I hear from players every year that this is the elite of the elite, so when I first heard the news that I made it, it was pretty exciting.”

On the field, the 6-foot-1, 225-pound defensive end thrilled everyone but the coaches and players tasked with the chore of scheming against him.

Thirty career sacks — 12 alone in his senior season — brings with it such a reputation.

A prolific pass rusher for New Palestine head coach Kyle Ralph, the incoming Marian University freshman punctuated his final high school season with 90 tackles, an interception and two defensive touchdowns.

He added 661 yards receiving and nine touchdowns as the team’s starting tight end, hauling in a pair of scores last November at Lucas Oil Stadium when the Dragons toppled New Prairie 77-42.

Tonight at North Central High School, Grable is more than willing to contribute one last time for coach Ralph and his South All-Stars. Listed at tight end, the versatile contributor is at home anywhere he lines up — literally.

“I consider defense more of my primary,” Grable said. “But the nice part of being a tight end for this game is I get one more shot at offense, get to catch the ball a little bit and block.”

At New Palestine, he filled any need, seeing time in the secondary on occasion, defensive end and at linebacker where he’s projected to compete for a spot with head coach Mark Henninger’s nationally ranked Marian University Knights, who compete in the NAIA.

For the South’s 49th meeting against the North, offense made perfect sense for the IFCA Senior All-State selection with Ralph at the helm.

“It’s obviously easier for him because we’re running an offense very similar to what we have at New Pal, so offensively I could plug him into any of the positions and he would know what to do,” Ralph said. “We thought about having him as a linebacker in this game. Maybe a defensive end because he’s such a good pass rusher, but ultimately we put him at tight end because he’s such a great weapon.”

The past week, he’s included unofficial player-coach to his list of can dos while practicing at Southport High School, offering tips and instructions to those new to the Dragons’ offense.

“Usually I had the linemen telling me what the blocking schemes are, but all of our linemen are new to the system, so I’ve been giving them pointers on where to go,” Grable said. “It’s a little different for me.”

Nothing he can’t handle. Losing, however, is a different story.

Going 3-7 in his sophomore season, New Palestine racked up 28 wins and only one loss during his final two years. Coincidentally, the South All-Stars haven’t lost to the North since 2010, winning four consecutive to lead the all-time series 27-21.

Extending the streak to five straight would be just fine for Grable.

“I went 15 games my senior year without losing, and I really, really want to go 16. I’m going to do everything I can to get that win,” he said. “We have two tremendous running backs (Dorian Tate of Ben Davis and Malik Higgins of Evansville Reitz). I’ve never seen two guys that can make moves and run like these two can. … I think with what we have and coach Ralph’s mind, it’s going to be pretty exciting.”

Noah Grable

Noah Grable

High School: New Palestine

College: Marian University

Age: 18

Parents: Jason and Laura Grable

Siblings: Emma Grable

Youth League: New Palestine Cadet Football League

Favorite NFL Team: Indianapolis Colts

Favorite NFL Player: “Andrew Luck. That dude is a beast.”

Best Position: Linebacker

Best thing about football: “The friendships and the group you become a part of as a football player. The team is something you’re part of for life.”

Favorite H.S. football memory: “Getting to the state championship on our revenge against Columbus East.”

Favorite movie: “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water”

When I’m not playing football: “I play a lot of basketball, ping pong and the Xbox. Mainly hanging out with my friends.”

Philosophy in life: “There is no path to happiness. Happiness is the path.”

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Rich Torres is sports editor at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at rtorres@greenfieldreporter.com or 317-477-3227.