LANCASTER — In more ways than one, and over more than one year actually, it was indeed the total turnaround for the young Titans.
And, it was a night, or at least one half of football, Notre Dame will remember —while one Fisher Catholic cares to soon forget.
Before the second half of Saturday night’s non-league encounter, the host Irish had outscored the Titans —taking into account their same meeting of two years ago —to the tune of 65-6.
However, football is a four-quarter contest if you make it out to be —and the undefeated Titans totally reversed their fortunes for the final 24 minutes.
Playing poorly for the first half and trailing 10-0 midway through the opening period, Notre Dame dominated in all three phases for the entire second half — scoring the game’s final 35 points and capturing a key 35-10 victory inside Lancaster’s fantastic Fulton Field.
That’s correct, as what a difference a half —and even two years —makes.
As a result, Notre Dame raised its unbeaten record to 3-0 — the first time the Titans have started a season such since 2013.
The campaign two years ago was quite the opposite, as unfortunately the Titans went winless —and suffered a week-three 55-6 defeat at Fisher Catholic, at the same Fulton Field on a Saturday night.
This season’s juniors and seniors saw action as freshmen and sophomores then, in a game in which the Titans totally were overwhelmed and undermanned.
And, this time, the Titans trailed 10-0 only seven minutes and 18 seconds in —thanks to three first-half fumbles including two which were lost, and two turnovers on downs, as the second of which was at the second stanza’s outset and at the Irish 5-yard-line.
But those self-inflicted mistakes Notre Dame made hit the Irish in the second half, due to key injuries —in part —impacting its offensive front.
Fisher Catholic (1-2), late in the second quarter, lost its quarterback-center exchange of freshman QB Grant Keefer and senior center Kavanaugh Frank.
The Irish fumbled four second-half snaps, including on its first punt attempt in the third quarter — in which the Titans took over on downs at the FC 17.
The Titans took the lead three plays later, part of their 35-point barrage — with Dylan Seison successfully kicking a perfect 5-of-5 in extra points — in a matter of merely 14 minutes.
Notre Dame veteran head coach Bob Ashley insisted Saturday wasn’t a revenge deal of any sort, simply because his Titans two years ago are not what they are this fall.
Instead, he praised his players and coaching staff for accepting the second-half challenge —and just playing better second-half football.
“We’re definitely aware of what happened two years ago, but there was no revenge or anything about getting even. We focused on ourselves, and we came up here with the plan to do the best we can and protect our 2-0 record. These guys really responded. We just had to come out and fundamentally play better, and we did,” said Ashley. “We got punched in the mouth in the first half by these guys. We didn’t execute very well, and were our own worst enemy at times. We gave them two possessions and they got 10 points off them. At halftime, we made some adjustments and just stayed calm. We’ve got four quarters to play, and nobody quit. We did what we did, and these guys just stepped up in the second half. I give a lot of credit to our older guys and their leadership and our coaching staff for keeping these guys constantly motivated and focused and staying level-headed and engaged. I’m proud of our kids for just hanging in there and bouncing back after really being challenged at halftime. The team really rose up in all three phases.”
That was true, as the Titans took over in all aspects.
Defensively, Notre Dame forced Fisher Catholic —following a four-play period-opening Irish turnover on downs near midfield —into four consecutive three-and-out possessions, the final three of which were punts.
Fisher’s final possession was an 11-play drive which spanned the final six minutes and 41 seconds, as its only second-half first downs (three) came on that series.
The wing-T run-heavy Irish only had 35 second-half rushing yards, as it only attempted two passes the entire game —both after it trailed 28-10.
FC ran 20 first-half plays for 116 yards, 56 of which were on Jack Tencza’a touchdown run midway through the opening quarter.
That score followed the Titans taking the opening kickoff and moving six plays to as deep as the FC 31 —but the drive stalled out on a combination of a four-yard loss on 3rd-down-and-1, and a fumbled snap and short gain getting not the benefit of the measurement on fourth down.
J.J. Viau kicked the Irish extra point, then booted a 35-yard field goal following a Titan lost fumble at their own 23.
After that, and before the Irish’s final possession of 11 plays, Fisher Catholic’s only other series of more than four plays was a 10-play march which only covered 25 yards to the Irish 35.
Ashley’s Titans — quite familiar with FC’s wing-T — stacked the box with nine or even 10 men and simply took over up front from there, as the Irish only had 54 yards over the final 25-and-a-half minutes.
With the Irish offense, and a new center and quarterback, it was not a threat to throw the ball.
“We knew coming up here after seeing two spread teams that this was going to be a challenge for us. It’s the physicality of the wing-T they run. With us being a wing-T team, we understand all the nuances and concepts. I thought our defensive coordinator Bubba Webb put our kids in fantastic positions all night, and we took advantage of the situation with some of their injuries in the second half,” explained Ashley. “We started winning the battle up front and that was a big story of the night.”
And indeed offensively, it showed.
Gavin Hart had 112 second-half rushing yards on only seven carries, scoring twice from 29 and five yards in a span of three minutes and 23 seconds — and giving Notre Dame its 14-10 lead with 5:25 left in the third.
Hart had pickups of 15 and 12 as part of those possessions, then pulled off an impressive 42-yard gainer all the way to the goal line —making tacklers miss with some nifty dekes, jukes and escapes.
He finished with 169 yards on 16 carries, ultimately outdoing Tencza —who had 103 yards on 18 totes.
“Gavin Hart just put the team on his back and did a fabulous job of making some great athletic plays in the open field,” said Ashley.
Beau Hobbs had a one-yard TD sneak with two minutes remaining in the third for the 21-10 lead, as Nolan Heiland —on the opening fourth-quarter call —took a jet sweep 48 yards to the house to make it 28-10.
As a team, Notre Dame dialed up 34 rushes for 316 yards — as Wyatt Webb was 5-of-7 passing for 42 yards.
The Titans, which had 14 first downs and mixed their ground gainers short and long, did not punt once.
When they did line up to punt with seven minutes remaining, the athletic jack-of-all trades Seison scored on an incredible 54-yard run.
Seison saw two Irish onrushers coming directly at him, so he jumped up and pulled the ball down —and took off and broke free down the right side all the way to the end zone.
His fifth and final extra point made it 35-10, and gave him 11 individually.
“That run wasn’t a designed call. Dylan did a nice job of knowing the situation, and having the wherewithal of seeing rushers coming at him. It was the surprise play of the night for me. I wasn’t expecting that,” said Ashley. “He made all five extra points, and his kickoffs were a weapon all night long, especially in the second half. He put them deep in a hole.”
And, it was a deep hole the Titans totally turned around from falling into — with a near-flawless second-half performance.
Notre Dame will now face fellow 3-0 Fayetteville in Friday night’s next non-leaguer — inside the friendly home confines of Spartan Municipal Stadium at 7 p.m.
The Rockets are indeed the opposite of the wing-T Irish, as they will sling the ball with wide receivers spread all over.
“We’ll have our hands full with that. They’ve been a power-based team in years past, but now they go five-wide with a good quarterback,” said Ashley. “Our secondary will have to step up and get a good pass rush going.”
* * *
Notre Dame 0 0 21 14—35
Fisher Catholic 10 0 0 0 —10
FC — Jack Tencza, 56-yard run (J.J. Viau kick), 6:47, 1st (7-0 FC)
FC — J.J. Viau, 35-yard field goal, 4:42, 1st (10-0 FC)
ND — Gavin Hart, 29-yard run (Dylan Seison kick), 8:48, 3rd (10-7 FC)
ND— Gavin Hart, 5-yard run (Dylan Seison kick), 5:25, 3rd (14-10 ND)
ND — Beau Hobbs, 1-yard run (Dylan Seison kick), 2:04, 3rd (21-10 ND)
ND — Nolan Heiland, 48-yard run (Dylan Seison kick), 11:50, 4th (28-10 ND)
ND — Dylan Seison, 54-yard run (Dylan Seison kick), 6:47, 4th (35-10 ND)
First downs 14 8
Scrimmage plays 41 48
Rushes-yards 34-316 46-151
Passing yards 42 4
Total yards 358 155
Cmp-Att-Int. 5-7-0 1-2-0
Fumbles-lost 3-2 4-0
Penalties-yards 5-30 2-10
Punts-Ave 0-0 4-35.75
RUSHING —Notre Dame: Gavin Hart 16-169 2TD, Beau Hobbs 6-24 TD, Cody Metzler 4-13, Dylan Seison 3-58 TD, Nolan Heiland 3-53 TD, Wyatt Webb 2-(-1); Fisher Catholic: Jack Tencza 18-103 TD, Jack Wright 16-31, Jack Carpenter 9-21, Brennan Quaintance 1-(-4), Team 2-0
PASSING — Notre Dame: Wyatt Webb 5-7-0-42; Fisher Catholic: Jack Tencza 1-1-0-4, Jack Carpenter 0-1-0-0
RECEIVING— Notre Dame: Cody Metzler 2-13, Carter Campbell 1-16, Matt Boldman 1-8, Dylan Seison 1-5; Fisher Catholic: Chase Springer 1-4
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