The Notre Dame football team headed to Chattanooga Christian’s David Stanton Field for their final regular-season game against the Chargers Friday night with two really strong incentives.
If they won, the Fighting Irish would win its region title for the second straight year and in doing so, would clinch home-field advantage throughout the post-season playoffs.
They accomplished their goal with the 29-7 win, but the Chargers didn’t make it easy.
CCS drove 72 yards in five plays on its opening possession and took a 7-0 lead following a two-yard run by Traveon Scott and Erick Manirakiza’s extra point with 4:21 remaining in the opening stanza.
Notre Dame countered with a 31-yard run from Jordan Ford with 7:09 showing before halftime, but the extra point was missed and the Chargers carried that one-point lead into the dressing room at intermission.
The second half was a totally different story.
CCS had picked up 140 yards rushing in the first half, but were limited to just 33 in the final two stanzas.
Notre Dame had gained 125 yards rushing in the first half, but made a few halftime adjustments and averaged over 10 yards per carry as they picked up 187 more yards on 18 attempts.
No doubt, Notre Dame coach Charles Fant and his assistants had a few choice words during the break. Whatever was said worked to perfection as the Irish were a different football team in the second half.
“We made some nice adjustments at the half that paid off, but we knew what we had to do,” Fant said after a brief chat with his team.
“We wrapped up our second straight region title and gave ourselves home-field advantage through the playoffs, but I’m so proud of the resilience we showed tonight. We were able to take care of business in the second half.
“We got a feel for what they were doing defensively, but we had to believe in ourselves. It was just a matter of taking care of the small details, but we had to impose our will on them and I think we did that,” Fant added.
CCS coach Mark Mariakis admitted that this is the toughest week of practice he’s ever conducted with the Chargers and none of it had to do with anything physical.
“Almost,” he said with a smile when asked about the game afterwards.
“I thought we played well and took a huge growth step forward tonight. We challenged them mentally all week long and they responded well. We know what it’s like to play in a big game like this. Now we just have to play like that for four quarters.
“We haven’t been a game of that caliber for that long since I’ve been here. You can’t give a team like Notre Dame anything because it will cost you, but it was a battle and I’ve never been any more proud. I think we proved we can play with a team like Notre Dame and I’m hoping we can carry those lessons learned forward from this point,” he added.
Notre Dame finished the game with 329 total yards, including 312 on the ground.
Cameron Wynn was the leader with 103 yards on 17 carries, including 51 yards in the first half and 52 more in the second. He also scored a pair of touchdowns on runs of 25 and 6 yards while also adding a conversion run.
Ford was next with 63 yards on nine attempts while quarterback Monroe Beard had 44 key yards on six trips.
Tarik Nelson only had one carry, but it went for 41 yards on third and 14 early in the fourth quarter. It was still a 14-7 game at that point, so Jeffrey Watkins’ 11-yard TD pass to Bennett Brinson on the next play may have been the turning point of the game.
Watkins also had 61 yards on six carries.
Bullish Mondo Ellison had 100 yards on 10 carries in the first half and finished with 125 on 19 trips to lead CCS as they totaled 190 yards, including 173 on the ground.
Scott added 45 yards on a dozen trips.
Notre Dame concludes its regular season at 8-1 with an eight-game winning streak and a perfect 6-0 mark in region play.
The Chargers are now 5-4 overall and 3-2 in region play with a game at Knoxville Grace next Friday.
NOTRE DAME 0 6 8 15 – 29
CHATTANOOGA CHRISTIAN 7 0 0 0 -- 7
CCS – Traveon Scott 2 run (Erick Manirakiza kick), 4:21 left in first;
ND – Jordan Ford 31 run (kick failed), 7:09 left in second;
ND – Cameron Wynn 25 run (Wynn run), 3:53 left in thirdl;
ND – Bennette Brinson 11 pass from Jeffery Watkins Jr. (Ford run), 10:00 left in fourth;
ND – Wynn 6 run (Hunter Hill kick), 5:17 left in fourth.
YARDSTICK NOTRE DAME CHATTANOOGA CHRISTIAN
First Downs 17 10
Rushes-Yards 39-312 37-173
Passing Yards 17 17
Total Yards 329 190
Passes (Comp-Att-Int) 2-3-0 1-5-0
Penalties-Yards 4-45 5-25
Fumbles 0 0
Punts-Avg. 2-37.5 5-34.0
NOTRE DAME RUSHING: Cameron Wynn 17-103; Jordan Ford 9-63; Jeffrey Watkins 6-61; Monroe Beard 6-44; Tarik Nelson 1-41.
NOTRE DAME RECEIVING: Bennette Brinson 1-11; Cameron Wynn 1-6.
CCS RUSHING: Mondo Ellison 19-125; Traveon Scott 12-45; Roderick Young 3-11; Sam Hall 3 for minus 8.
CCS RECEIVING: Treveon Scott 1-17.
(email John Hunt at email@example.com)