The Notre Dame gave Eastern Pike a rude welcoming to the SOC I on Saturday evening, as the Titans scored 28 unanswered points in the second and third quarter on their way to a 36-24 victory at Spartan Stadium.
Titan junior Sam Kayser broke a 6-6 tie in the second quarter, scoring from 47 yards out to give Notre Dame (3-1, 1-0 SOC I) a 14-6 lead with four-and-a-half minutes to play until halftime. The touchdown was Kayser’s 11th in four games this season.
Kayser also finished as Notre Dame’s rushing leader with 126 yards on the day.
Less than two minutes later, Isiah Johnson extended the Titans’ lead with a 22-yard touchdown run to give Notre Dame a 21-6 lead at halftime.
In the third quarter, the Titans continued to pour it on. Sophomore quarterback Drew Cassidy completed just two passes on the evening, but one of those went for a 26-yard touchdown to Grant Sparks. Later in the third, Michael Collins scored on a 12-yard rush — his second touchdown of the game — to give Notre Dame a commanding 36-6 lead.
The Eagles (2-2, 0-1 SOC I) — playing in their first-ever conference game — were able to make the game competitive down the stretch, thanks to the arm of junior quarterback Ethan Leist. He threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, as the Eagles racked up over 400 yards of offense throughout the game.
With a little over a minute remaining, Leist waltzed into the end zone with a 12-yard touchdown run to cut the Notre Dame lead to 36-24.
However, the Titans were able to get critical stops when they needed them. Eastern went 0-4 on two-point conversions throughout the game, and Notre Dame came up with big stops down the stretch to hold on for a 36-24 victory.
Turnovers proved to be the difference in Saturday’s game. Though the Eagles out-gained Notre Dame by 228 yards, the Titans picked off a pass, recovered a fumble and won the turnover battle 2-0.
With the win, Notre Dame climbs into the eighth spot and final spot in JoeEitel.com’s playoff predictions for Region 25. They host Oak Hill at Spartan Stadium next Saturday.
The Eagles will also continue SOC I play next Saturday, when they host Northwest.
ND — M. Collins 1 yd rush (PAT failed) (6-0) (11:27)
Eastern — D. Tomlinson 52 yd pass from Et. Leist (PAT failed) (6-6) (10:12)
ND — S. Kayser 47 yd rush (M. Collins 2 pt conv) (14-6) (4:25)
ND — I. Johnson 22 yd rush (D. Cassidy PAT) (21-6) (1:29)
ND — G. Sparks 26 yd pass from D. Cassidy (D. Cassidy PAT) (28-6) (8:29)
ND — M. Collins 12 yd rush (M. Collins 2 pt convo) (36-6) (2:44)
Eastern — C. Fremont 3 yd rush (2 pt convo failed) (36-12) (:08)
Eastern — W. Hodge 12 yd pass from Et. Leist (2 pt convo failed) (36-18) (10:14)
Eastern — Et. Leist 16 yd rush (2 pt convo failed) (36-24) (1:18)
Passing — Notre Dame: D. Cassidy 2-2-38.
Rushing — Notre Dame: I. Johnson 4-38. S. Kayser 18-126, D. Cassidy 3-(-3), G. Sparks 1-0, M. Collins 25-97.
Receiving — Notre Dame G. Sparks 2-38.
Eastern 2-2 (0-1 SOC I); Notre Dame 3-1 (1-0 SOC I).
Reach Alex Hider at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931 or on Twitter @PDTSportsWriter