Another rivalry matchup from last Friday pitted the Notre Dame Titans against the East Tartans.
Although Notre Dame entered the game with a 2-7 record on the season and East was 7-2, this was still a big game for both schools.
“That’s a game they take very serious each year, and I was let know when I took the head coaching job at East that that was a game that was very important to the community and the school,” East head coach James Gifford said. “No matter what Notre Dame’s record is, that’s a game they take very serious every year.”
The Tartans didn’t take the Titans lightly, and were able to gear up for a playoff run with a 48-14 win. East will travel to Waterford this Friday for their opening round playoff game.
“I think since the second half of Symmes Valley and then carried on through Notre Dame, the guys were just extremely excited to get in the playoffs,” Gifford said. “Not just win a game, not just win two games, but they’re real excited to see how far we can take this.”
For the Tartans, the usual suspects showed up to score for East. Kyle Flannery had two rushing touchdowns and a receiving touchdown, and Ethan Gifford caught two touchdown passes as well.
“We actually split Ethan Gifford out at split end this week,” Gifford said. “We probably will keep him out there throughout the playoffs, because we really just want to work and emphasize getting our best 11 on the field at one time.”
Quarterback Brady Douthat did a good job distributing the ball for the Tartans, totaling 170 yards on 6-9 passing. He threw three touchdowns, including a 90 yard scoring toss to Ethan Gifford.
As a team, East averaged 11.3 yards per carry. Ethan Carver finished with 11 rushes for 88 yards and a touchdown, while Flannery carried five times for 78 yards and two scores.
Trace Smith added two carries for 20 yards, Douthat carried three times for 27 yards, and Devon Stevens had three runs for 33 yards.
That success on the ground came in large part from the offensive line, as every starting lineman had at least three pancake blocks. Blaine Scott finished with eight on the day to lead the Tartans front five.
Even on special teams, East was able to score, as Stevens had a 77 yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
All in all, the Tartans totaled 419 yards of offense with a very balanced distribution.
“We were clicking on all cylinders,” Gifford said. “Ethan Carver and Trace Smith were doing a great job carrying the ball, and then Brady was doing a good job throwing it around.”
Defensively, East recorded 12 tackles for a loss. Chandler Carver led the team with nine tackles, two for a loss.
The Tartans defense also got big performances from J.D. Hatcher (eight tackles, one for a loss), Ethan Gifford (seven tackles) and Braiden Haney (seven tackles, four for a loss).
East finished the regular season with no games decided by less than 24 points. The Tartans have had their triumphs and defeats by large margins this year, which is something that does concern Gifford.
But, he also sees it as a potential plus for his team.
“You can kind of look at it as a positive too. Maybe we’re a little bit more fresh than the teams we might have to play in the playoffs, because our guys haven’t played as many snaps,” Gifford said. “We’ve still got some of that energy stored in us that maybe other teams don’t.”
Back in the playoffs for the second straight season, East will take on Waterford (9-1) on Friday night in Waterford. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 pm.
Notre Dame finishes the year at 2-8, but with an incredibly young roster look to have the foundation for a bright future.
With a roster that featured 10 underclassmen this season, the Titans should be a tough out down the road, especially if they can add additional numbers next season.
Ben Mader, who has had a bright season for Notre Dame, will be back as a senior next year with a year of experience as a feature back in Bob Ashley’s wing-T offense.
Mader has excelled all season for the Titans, scoring touchdowns in a variety of ways. Mader has score several times on special teams, as well as on the ground and even catching passes for points.
Caleb Nichols and Logan Emnett were thrust into big roles as freshman, starting at quarterback and running back respectively. Both were able to show their grit and toughness throughout the season, and will be something to watch in the SOC I for the next three years.
Reach Benjamin Spicer at (502-264-7318) on Twitter @BSpicerPDT or at Facebook.com/ReporterBenSpicer