PORTSMOUTH — This time, Bob Ashley and his Notre Dame football coaching staff simply stressed a lot less.
After two consecutive weeks of turnaround performances from the second half, the undefeated Titans took their fight to the visiting Zanesville Rosecrans Bishops on Saturday night by the second quarter.
That’s because the Titans, over a span of a dozen minutes and 13 seconds, scored the game’s opening 28 points —and defensively came oh so close to pitching a shutout —as Notre Dame defeated the non-league Bishops 40-6 on Homecoming inside Spartan Municipal Stadium.
The Titans — with Dylan Seison successfully making four of four extra-point attempts — tallied the first 28, then managed the final 12 over the final 12 minutes and 42 seconds.
In fact, Notre Dame went from back-to-back weeks of second-half comeback bids to hitting the Bishops with the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s running-clock rule — as quarterback Wyatt Webb’s 25-yard touchdown run with five minutes and 45 seconds remaining put that running clock into effect.
Webb’s TD run was the fifth and final for the Titans —four of which went for 20 to 25 yards — sandwiched around Cody Metzler’s five-yard dive with 42 seconds left in the third.
For the game, the Titans amassed 331 rushing yards on 33 attempts —with three ballcarriers rushing at least seven times for 66 yards and one score.
Webb also attempted four passes, as his only completion went to Seison for nine yards in the second quarter.
But Notre Dame’s defense did the majority of the Homecoming heavy lifting — keeping the youthful Bishops in check to only 79 rushing yards on 30 attempts.
The Titans forced Rosecrans into four punts and two turnovers on downs in its first seven possessions —with the other being a 46-yard interception return for a touchdown by Gavin Hart.
That made it 14-0 only 45 seconds following Notre Dame’s first score —and gave the Titans some stress relief early on.
Rosecrans quarterback Brandon Bernath completed half (14) of his 27 pass attempts for 157 yards, but the Bishops’ only score occurred with a minute-and-a-half left in the third quarter to avert the shutout —and came on a hook-and-lateral call to convert 3rd-and-24 from the Titans’ 29-yard line.
Of course, the Bishops began that series on the ND 15, thanks to the Titans’ only lost fumble.
Otherwise, the only other Rosecrans red zone opportunity was its final possession—following a 56-yard completion from Bernath to Weston Harmon to the Notre Dame 16.
But the Titans, which stopped the Bishops on downs again after a 10-play drive between the 37s on the previous possession, bowed up one final time —and forced three incomplete passes before one final sack.
Indeed, it was nice for Ashley and company to not have to rally and second-half stress —thanks to the Notre Dame defense doing the job all night long.
“Our defense definitely came to play tonight and did a real nice job. Our coordinator Bubba Webb put our kids in the best position to have success, and we played a lot of kids tonight who got a lot of valuable experience and contributed in a lot of ways,” said the veteran NDHS head coach. “Our defense set the tone for tonight’s win.”
With that win, the Titans took their perfect record to 5-0 —their best start since 2000 when they went undefeated in the regular season, and played a pair of state playoff games.
Speaking of playoffs, Notre Dame —as per the second release of the official OHSAA computer ratings on Tuesday —trails only traditional state powerhouse Marion Local in the Division VII, Region 28 rankings.
That’s where the Titans stood after last week’s 27-21 come-from-behind victory over visiting Fayetteville, which came on the heels of their 35-10 second-half turnaround at Fisher Catholic the week before.
In those contests, Notre Dame had scored seven against Fayetteville and nary against Fisher Catholic in those opening halves.
Against Rosecrans, they had 28 points with 27 minutes gone by —and 34 by the end of the third.
“We were concerned all week with trying to start better, but that comes down to just discipline and not making those silly mistakes. We just worked all week on cleaning those things up,” said Ashley. “Overall, I thought we did a pretty good job with that.”
The Titans’ two first-quarter possessions were Webb’s interception and their only punt, before they took over at their own 35 at the outset of the second stanza.
Hart gained 10 yards on the first play, Metzler moved another 16 on a jet sweep to the outside, Webb ran a dozen yards to the 22, and finally Metzler took an inside handoff and motored outside to paydirt.
That was two minutes into the second quarter, and ultimately gave the Titans all the points they needed for the win.
All five Notre Dame offensive scoring series’ spanned at least four plays, three first downs, 47 yards and 51 seconds —as Beau Hobbs’ 20-yard run and Hart’s 24-yard burst both came courtesy of five-play possessions.
The wing-T Titans, which racked up 21 first downs to the Bishops’ nine, found success with the counter call —Ashley explained.
Hart had a dozen carries for a hefty 142 yards, including a 44-yard jaunt from the Titans’ 20 to the Rosecrans 36 for the game’s longest run.
Metzler added 75 yards on nine tries, while Webb ran seven times for 66 yards.
“They (Bishops) kept coming at us and flying to the football hard with different defenses, so we ran a lot of counters to really neutralize that,” said Ashley. “We caught them over-committing a little bit, and thought we could get some counters and jet sweeps on them. We were pretty successful with those plays and we spread the ball around well too. And we ran Wyatt Webb with the counter more tonight than we ever have.”
The Bishops — with the long bus ride to Portsmouth from Zanesville — fell to 1-4, as they only sport two seniors, including leading rusher Rex Hankinson with 52 yards on 17 carries and the lone Rosecrans score.
Hartman had six receptions for an even 100 yards.
Saturday was actually the fourth Notre Dame home game at historic Spartan Stadium so far this year —and it will make the fifth for Friday night against Northwest.
Kickoff for the Southern Ohio Conference Division I opener is set for 7 p.m., as the injury-riddled Mohawks are also 1-4 —but are also the defending SOC I champion.
Most likely, Ashley and staff will stress much more this week with preparation for the Mohawks — but the time, work and effort so far is paying off for the undefeated Titans.
“We have our work cut out and our hands full for us this week, but it’s a whole new season. But being 5-0 is a good feeling right now. Hadn’t had it in a long time,” said the coach. “I’m proud of our coaches, our players and our fans for their fantastic job these first five games.”
* * *
Rosecrans 0 0 6 0 — 6
Notre Dame 0 21 13 6—40
ND — Cody Metzler, 22-yard run (Dylan Seison kick), 10:01, 2nd (7-0 ND)
ND — Gavin Hart, 46-yard interception return (Dylan Seison kick), 9:15, 2nd (14-0 ND)
ND — Beau Hobbs, 20-yard run (Dylan Seison kick), 4:12, 2nd (21-0 ND)
ND— Gavin Hart, 24-yard run (Dylan Seison kick), 9:02, 3rd (28-0 ND)
R — Rex Hankinson, 17-yard run (kick blocked), 1:33, 3rd (28-6 ND)
ND — Cody Metzler, 5-yard run (kick failed), :42, 3rd (34-6 ND)
ND — Wyatt Webb, 25-yard run (kick failed), 5:45, 4th (40-6 ND)
First downs 9 21
Scrimmage plays 56 37
Rushes-yards 30-79 33-331
Passing yards 157 9
Total yards 236 340
Cmp-Att-Int. 14-27-1 1-4-1
Fumbles-lost 0-0 2-1
Penalties-yards 12-128 8-65
Punts-Ave 4-37 1-17
RUSHING —Rosecrans: Rex Hankinson 17-52 TD, Tommy Bernath 6-17, Brandon Bernath 5-12, Mikey Burkhart 1-0, Weston Hartman 1-(-2); Notre Dame: Gavin Hart 12-142 TD, Cody Metzler 9-75 2TD, Wyatt Webb 7-66 TD, Beau Hobbs 2-23 TD, Nolan Heiland 2-14, Dylan Seison 1-11
PASSING — Rosecrans: Brandon Bernath 14-27-1-157; Notre Dame: Wyatt Webb 1-4-1-9
RECEIVING— Rosecrans: Weston Hartman 6-100, Rex Hankinson 5-25, Tommy Bernath 3-32; Notre Dame: Dylan Seison 1-9
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