PORTSMOUTH — Notre Dame’s Landon Barbarits wasn’t going to be denied a second time at making a possible pass interception.
And, for the second consecutive time in which the Green Bobcats have gone undefeated through at least five games, host Notre Dame didn’t allow that to continue.
Barbarits got his game-sealing interception, Gavin Hart got his second straight 1,000-yard rushing season, Dylan Seison got his all-around game going again, and the Notre Dame Titans got a much-needed victory on Saturday night —twice trailing by seven points but twice rallying to defeat the visiting and previously-unbeaten Bobcats 29-21 inside historic yet declining Spartan Municipal Stadium.
The contest marked Homecoming activities at Notre Dame High School, and speaking of coming home, it was only the Titans’ second home tilt through seven full weeks of the season.
That’s right, the road-weary yet now 3-4 Titans responded and rebounded in a big way —by giving Green its first loss in seven tries, as both squads are 1-1 in the Southern Ohio Conference Division I.
Notre Dame’s other home game was a 55-0 shutout of winless Fisher Catholic, but by far — in their season of largely struggles to date with injuries, some discipline issues and of course two-hour one-way bus trips — the Titans’ toppling of an undefeated Bobcat group was their best victory this fall.
“It was a total team effort from the kids and the coaches. I felt like we had a good solid week of practice and tonight is a result of that. Our kids did a really nice job of responding to adversity all night. Green’s three touchdowns were big plays on us with the fullback counter and then the fumble strip and score in the second half. We came right back after each score and got a touchdown back,” said NDHS coach Bob Ashley. “Proud of everybody for responding the way we did and coming to play.”
The Titans turned around and did to Green what Northwest did to Notre Dame, playing a physical brand of basic ball control football — and controlling the clock, when it began working after the opening quarter, and more than doubling up the Bobcats in plays from scrimmage (66-31).
Notre Dame dialed up 29 first downs to the Bobcats’ eight, did not punt once, and hit for 500 total yards compared to just 183 for Green —as the wing-T and run-oriented Titans tallied 343 rushing yards on 53 carries, even more than doubling the Bobcats (161 yards on 26 carries) in that department.
The Titans mixed up the pass and run well, and as both coaches commented afterwards, Notre Dame’s physicality won out.
“It starts up front, and I thought our guys had a good night on both sides of the ball,” added Ashley. “That set everything else up. We tried to challenge our guys.”
“Honestly, they just were more physical than we were and were more disciplined than we were,” said Green coach Chad Coffman. “With their size and a couple of guys up front, they can cause problems. It was a good high school football game where they have good players and are well-coached. It came down to them just making more plays than we did. We knew they had to win the game to do what they want to do for the rest of the season.”
Indeed, the Titans were in a desperate mode entering Saturday night, already one down to Northwest in the SOC I race —and only 14th in the Division VII Region 27 Ohio High School Athletic Association football computer ratings, as the top 16 teams in each region qualify for the playoffs at regular season’s end.
The top eight teams in each region earn opening-round home games, and Notre Dame jumped —per the unofficial yet respected rankings website www.joeeitel.com —from 14th to eighth, while the Bobcats dipped from second to fourth in Region 27.
The official weekly release of the OHSAA’s ratings appears on Tuesday.
But Barbarits had to seal the Titans’ triumph with his interception, as he picked off Green freshman quarterback Jon Knapp on 4th-down -and-18 at the Titans’ 25-yard-line.
On the play prior, the fourth play of the Bobcats’ drive with Notre Dame ahead 29-21, Barbarits almost intercepted that Knapp pass.
In fact, the only five Bobcat passes all night were ones thrown by the backup Knapp on their final series —as Coffman replaced the running QB Abe McBee with the six-foot three-inch and 175-pound throwing-first field general Knapp.
Knapp completed his first three passes for 22 yards, but Barbarits had hands off and hands on —literally and figuratively —for the final two tries.
His game-clinching interception occurred with a minute and 35 seconds remaining, as Notre Dame put the Bobcats into a long-distance yardage situation — by sacking Knapp on 1st-down-and-10 from midfield.
While the Bobcats couldn’t convert their second, third and fourth-down and longs, the Titans —and in crunch time in fact—did just that.
Leading 23-21, and with eight minutes and 44 seconds remaining, the Titans moved eight plays and 63 yards— thanks largely to a 24-yard comebacker completion from freshman Luke Cassidy to Myles Phillips, sandwiched around a pair of 11-yard ground-and-pound pickups by Hart.
But arguably the game’s biggest play was made with Notre Dame facing 4th-down-and-12 from the Bobcats’ 29 on that march, when Cassidy threaded a needle completion to Seison in traffic at the 5-yard line —as he was tackled a yard ahead.
On the next play, from four yards out, Hart trotted into the end zone all alone on the left side —making it 29-21 with only four minutes remaining.
“Plays like those were a big difference in the game,” said Coffman. “Our inability to convert third downs, or on our last play fourth down, and their ability to convert 3rd-down and long, or in that case 4th-down and long.”
Ashley spoke of Cassidy’s key completion to Seison —as those two connected six times for 109 yards and once for a touchdown, but none bigger than those 25 yards.
“That was a read route, and we were really hoping for either a pass interference call or a 50-50 jump ball. That’s what we got with Dylan right there. Dylan’s athletic ability, he just went up and got the ball,” said the coach. “It was a huge play. A lot of credit to Dylan, a lot of credit to Luke Cassidy just hanging in the pocket as long as he could. Luke was patient and threw it where he had to throw it. He threw it off the read and not off the man. It really paid off.”
Cassidy, completing all but four of his 13 passes for 158 yards, was under center Saturday night — as starting signal-caller Wyatt Webb was out.
Seison caught six passes for 109 yards, rushed eight times for 115, and set up a key Titans’ touchdown in the third quarter — that made it 21-20 in favor of Green.
The Bobcats just didn’t have the ball much, especially in the second half.
Before their six-play final possession, they held it for four plays and five plays respectively — and punted.
The Titans took advantage of the defensive stops — and took the 23-21 lead only five seconds into the fourth quarter — capping a 10-play, five-first down and five-minutes and 36-seconds scoring drive with a Coleman Shaffer 27-yard field goal.
That was the freshman’s first three-pointer of his Notre Dame career.
“That was big for him (Shaffer),” said Ashley. “He stepped up and was poised for a freshman and delivered for us in that big moment.”
The junior Hart had gains of 11, 17 and 10 yards on that series, as he finished with a hefty 180 yards on 27 carries —going over the 1,000-yard rushing mark in the process for the second season in a row.
Up until that go-ahead field goal, the Titans traded scores with the Bobcats, but answered them each time.
In the first quarter, Green went a quick five plays and 54 yards — and scored on a Landan Lodwick 13-yard end-around run with Quincy Merrill making the extra-point kick.
The Titans then responded with a 10-play, 79-yard march —as Phillips finished it off with a 13-yard run of his own, with Shaffer successfully booting the PAT.
Lodwick led the Bobcats with 86 yards on 10 carries, and on the second stanza’s fifth play following a Notre Dame turnover on downs on the period’s opening play, he went off the left side and dashed 54 yards to paydirt —making it 13-7 just two minutes into the quarter.
But the Titans took their initial lead in response, when they went 65 yards in eight plays —as Hart had his longest rush with 25 yards, and Cassidy completed the series with a 16-yard touchdown toss to Seison at the six-and-a-half minute mark before halftime.
Coleman kicked the extra point for the 14-13 edge, and the Titans even got the ball back exactly two minutes later —following the second Green three-and-out series of the half.
Notre Dame drove from its own 6-yard-line to the Bobcats’ 12, and picked up five first downs in the process, as Cassidy and Seison hooked up for gains of 17 and 15 —before Hart had his second-longest gallop, an 18-yarder.
But as Cassidy rolled right on the drive’s 12th play, his pass towards the end zone was intercepted right at the goal line —by Knapp with 17 seconds to go.
Then, just three plays and a minute-plus into the third quarter and with the ball at midfield, Lodwick made a defensive gem and simply stripped Hart of the pigskin—racing the other way for a tide-turning 50-yard strip-and-score, and a 21-14 Green lead with Nathaniel Brannigan running in the two-point conversion run.
Still, Seison returned the ensuing kickoff 47 yards to the Bobcat 38, and on the first play following, Cassidy completed a pass to Carter Campbell for 25 yards —with Phillips finishing the four-play possession off with his second TD run.
With that, the Titans took control from there, and pitched a 15-0 shutout over the game’s final 28 minutes and 41 seconds —as the Titans turned a similar trick from four years ago, when they defeated a 5-0 Green club at that time (16-8).
That year was only the Bobcats’ second winning season since 1991, as they clinched their third with this year’s shutout of Symmes Valley.
But now, Green — guilty of nine penalties for 60 yards at Notre Dame — faces adversity for truly the first time all season, as it heads to SOC I co-leader Northwest.
“It will be another really big challenge for us, but hey, this is what it’s about,” said Coffman. “We’re trying to get to that point with our program where we’re playing for championships and competing well in our region. It was a good physical game here tonight and we lost. Now how do we learn from it and what’s our response to it? I expect us to respond appropriately.”
Just like Notre Dame did on Saturday night to its adverse season so far.
“Just proud of everybody, man. Just a total team effort,” said Ashley. “I have a ton of respect for Coach Coffman and his program and everything he is doing at Green, but this is a really big win for our guys.”
* * *
Green 7 6 8 0 —21
Notre Dame 7 7 6 9 —29
G — Landan Lodwick, 13-yard run (Quincy Merrill kick), 1st (7-0 G)
ND — Myles Phillips, 13-yard run (Coleman Shaffer kick), 1st (7-7 tie)
G — Landan Lodwick, 54-yard run (kick failed), 10:05, 2nd (13-7 G)
ND — Dylan Seison, 16-yard pass from Luke Cassidy (Coleman Shaffer kick), 6:31, 2nd (14-13 ND)
G — Landan Lodwick, 50-yard fumble return (Nathaniel Brannigan run), 10:51, 3rd (21-14 G)
ND — Myles Phillips, 4-yard run (kick blocked), 8:41, 3rd (21-20 G)
ND — Coleman Shaffer, 27-yard field goal, 11:55, 4th (23-21 ND)
ND — Gavin Hart, 4-yard run (kick blocked), 3:57, 4th (29-21 ND)
First downs 8 29
Scrimmage plays 31 66
Rushes-yards 26-161 53-343
Passing yards 22 158
Total yards 183 501
Cmp-Att-Int. 3-5-1 9-13-1
Fumbles-lost 1-0 2-1
Penalties-yards 9-60 6-49
Punts-Ave. 4-41.75 0-0
RUSHING — Green: Landan Lodwick 10-86 2TD, Nathaniel Brannigan 9-69, Abe McBee 3-8, Trevor Sparks 2-3, Blake Smith 1-3, Jon Knapp 1-(-8); Notre Dame: Gavin Hart 27-180 TD, Dylan Seison 8-115, Myles Phillips 6-38 2TD, Luke Cassidy 12-10
PASSING — Green: Jon Knapp 3-5-1-22; Notre Dame: Luke Cassidy 9-13-1-158 TD
RECEIVING —Green: Landan Lodwick 1-12, Abe McBee 1-10, Nathaniel Brannigan 1-0; Notre Dame: Dylan Seison 6-109 TD, Myles Phillips 2-24, Carter Campbell 1-25
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved