PORTSMOUTH — Believe it or not, Bob Ashley actually remembers being involved in a varsity football game on a weeknight not named a Friday.
In fact, the veteran football coach can even remember it being a non-Friday — AND a non-Saturday game.
“We actually had a Tuesday night game here in 1995 with Trimble,” said Ashley, with a laugh. “But I don’t think I’ve ever had a Monday night game.”
That was, until of course, on Monday night.
Yes, that’s correct, as the Notre Dame Titans played their 2021 football season opener on an unusual day of the week with an unscheduled opponent — the Lewis County (Ky.) Lions.
But the Titans took advantage of their Monday night cameo, and amassed 249 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns — all in capturing a 50-20 non-league victory inside historic yet steamsoaked Spartan Municipal Stadium in Portsmouth.
The Titans never trailed, and initially got on the scoreboard with their only passing touchdown on Monday night — a 54-yard screen hookup to Cody Metzler from quarterback Wyatt Webb with only three minutes and 52 seconds gone by.
Gavin Hart had the two-point conversion run, and then scored the next Titan touchdown on a 41-yard dash at the four-and-a-half minute mark of the opening quarter —as Ilan Walker kicked the first of his four extra points.
And while the Lions roared right back with two scores to get within 15-6 and 22-12, the Notre Dame blitz was on under the Monday night lights.
From the 52-second mark of the first period on, the Titans tacked on two touchdown scampers apiece by Dylan Seison (47 and 22 yards) and Nolan Heiland (49 and 34 yards) —and Wyatt Webb snuck one in with 6:47 to play in the third.
That sneak and score, to make it 43-12, put the Ohio High School Athletic Association running-clock rule into effect —as the Kentuckians did make it a 30-point final at 50-20, following a 51-yard scoring strike from freshman quarterback Ayden Cooper to Austin Howard exactly 12 minutes and nine seconds later.
Notre Dame, which sported six ballcarriers of at least two touches and 10 yards apiece, did build its advantage to as large as 50-12 —on Heiland’s 34-yard run only 40 seconds into the final quarter.
Monday night marked the first time since Oct. 19, 2018 in which the Titans hit half a hundred in points —as they blanked Manchester that night 55-0.
But that was a weekend affair, not on a weeknight.
Ashley explained how the contest came to be with Lewis County —which was also playing its season opener in Kentucky, as the Lions last won a game in the 2018 season finale.
Notre Dame was originally set to host Grove City Christian on Friday night, but GCC contacted the Titans and informed them on Friday afternoon of its inability to play — because of the coronavirus impacting the program.
The Titans tried to get another opponent on such short notice, and ultimately landed Lewis County —which recently came off a quarantine of its own.
“Nothing is guaranteed this season. We found that out real quick. We are very thankful to Lewis County for committing to playing us. I know that had to be a tough decision on their part, but we are thankful for them agreeing to play,” Ashley explained. “We spent the majority of Saturday trading films with two other teams believe it or not. From Friday’s notice, until about Saturday evening, we didn’t know for sure we were going to get Lewis County.”
Once the matchup with the Lions was confirmed on Friday evening for Monday night, overcoming any adversity of the Grove City Christian cancellation and turning to the football business at hand in terms of Xs and Os became the Titans’ top priority.
“The cancellation on Friday was initially a letdown for them. I felt like we had a really nice week of practice last week and a good pre-game last Thursday. These kids were pretty high. But they stayed good and focused, and actually from film, Lewis County did a lot of similar things offensively that Grove City showed,” said Ashley. “Overall, I thought our kids did a nice job of handling everything.”
On the field, the wing-T Titans employed multiple jet-sweep plays — and utilized their speed to their advantage.
“We knew we were going up against some size, and we tried to get the ball in everybody’s hands,” said Ashley.
Seison carried four times for two TDs and 85 yards, while Metzler made two receptions from Webb for 84.
Webb also completed dozen-yard passes to Seison and Beau Hobbs, as the Titans tallied 357 total yards on only 27 snaps —22 of which were rushes.
Cooper completed 11 of 23 passes with two touchdowns and 156 yards in his first career game, while Howard had 87 rushing yards on 13 totes — along with 67 receiving yards on three catches.
The Titans return home, and return to non-league action with an extremely quick four-day turnaround, on Friday night against Fairfield Christian.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m., as it was confirmed on Tuesday that the contest would NOT be moved to Saturday night.
But, at least it’s not on Monday night — although the young Titans took full advantage of being the only game around.
“Absolutely glad to get to play and get a win,” said Ashley. “Especially under these circumstances.”
* * *
Lewis County 6 6 0 8 —20
Notre Dame 22 15 6 7— 50
ND — Cody Metzler, 54-yard pass from Wyatt Webb (Gavin Hunt run), 8:08, 1st (8-0 ND)
ND — Gavin Hart, 41-yard run (Ilan Walker kick), 4:28, 1st (15-0 ND)
LC — Hayden Gibson, 16-yard pass from Ayden Cooper (pass failed), 2:01, 1st (15-6 ND)
ND — Dylan Seison, 47-yard run (Ilan Walker kick), :52, 1st (22-6 ND)
LC — Ethan Sizemore, 39-yard run (pass failed), 7:33, 2nd (22-12 ND)
ND — Dylan Seison, 22-yard run (Ilan Walker kick), 6:51, 2nd (29-12 ND)
ND — Nolan Heiland, 49-yard run (Beau Hobbs run), 3:49, 2nd (37-12 ND)
ND — Wyatt Webb, 1-yard run (run failed), 6:47, 3rd (43-12 ND)
ND — Nolan Heiland, 34-yard run (Ilan Walker kick), 11:20, 4th (50-12 ND)
LC — Austin Howard, 51-yard pass from Ayden Cooper (Zared Lewis run), 6:38, 4th (50-20 ND)
First downs 13 13
Scrimmage plays 49 27
Rushes-yards 26-89 22-249
Passing yards 156 108
Total yards 245 357
Cmp-Att-Int. 11-23-2 4-5-0
Fumbles-lost 4-1 2-2
Penalties-yards 15-89 4-20
Punts-Ave 3-34.3 1-30
RUSHING —Lewis County: Austin Howard 13-87, Ethan Sizemore 9-49 TD, Ayden Cooper 3-(-40), Team 1-(-7); Notre Dame: Dylan Seison 4-85 2TD, Gavin Hart 4-46 TD, Nolan Heiland 2-83 2TD, Wyatt Webb 5-13 TD, Beau Hobbs 5-10, Cody Metzler 2-12
PASSING — Lewis County: Ayden Cooper 11-23-2-156 2TD; Notre Dame: Wyatt Webb 4-5-0-1-108 TD
RECEIVING— Lewis County: Trey Gerike 4-55, Austin Howard 3-67 TD, Hayden Gibson 3-19, Isaiah Bentley 1-15; Notre Dame: Cody Metzler 2-84 TD, Dylan Seison 1-12, Beau Hobbs 1-12
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved