It almost looked like an instant replay from the high school football season opener at Finley Stadium last year.
In that game, Notre Dame scored the first touchdown before Baylor scored 41 straight points to win going away. The Fighting Irish then preceded to win 11 straight before falling in the state championship game.
Circumstances were similar Thursday night in the second game of the 2018 Chattanooga Kickoff Classic.
The Fighting Irish once against scored first, marching 80 yards in nine plays to open the game with a 21-yard touchdown strike from Parker Brock to Cameron Wynn for a 7-0 lead at the 6:41 mark of the first quarter following Hunter Hill’s PAT.
The Red Raiders then reeled off five straight TDs, two on turnover returns, for a 35-7 halftime lead and an eventual 35-14 victory.
Central outlasted Walker Valley by a 40-28 final in the first game that was delayed for an hour after the first play by lightning.
Baylor may have the toughest schedule in the state as all three of their opponents to start the season all played for state titles a year ago. And that doesn’t count league competition where the Division II, Class AAA teams are among the best in the state, regardless of classification.
So you can only imagine how happy Baylor coach Phil Massey was as he headed toward the exit with another impressive victory against a very good Notre Dame team.
“I’m really excited about this football team getting a big win against another qualify opponent and I’m expecially pleased with our defense,” Massey began after starting his 13th season as the Baylor leader with a win.
“There’s no way we can simulate in practice what Notre Dame does on offense, but our defensive coaches did a great job of preparing them and they did a nice job of stepping up and stopping what they do. Those two turnovers for touchdowns were huge, but we sort of stumped our toe and lost our focus in the second half.
“We had too many dropped balls and penalties, but overall, I’m happy with the way we played. I thought we played hard from the opening kickoff and we were able to take advantage of the opportunities they gave us. This is definitely a game we can build from,” he added.
Wynn scored the first touchdown on his only pass reception and he later scored his team’s second TD on a six-yard run late in the game when the outcome had long been determined, but other than those two plays, there weren’t a lot of bright spots for the talented Fighting Irish.
“All of those turnovers were the difference for us and that’s most disappointing as we normally don’t play like that,” said Notre Dame coach Charles Fant as he walked slowly toward the parking lot.
“Execution is the name of the game in football and we didn’t do a very good job of it. And it’s tough to have a chance when you give up two turnovers for touchdowns. Baylor did a great job of attacking our blockers and they didn’t allow us a chance for any big plays.
“We had a nice drive to start the game and we needed more like it, but it just didn’t happen tonight,” Fant added.
While the Fighting Irish used more than five minutes to score on their first drive, Baylor answered in a hurry, covering 81 yards in three plays and needing just 1:19 to knot the score.
Santeri Valpas gained six yards on the first play, but quarterback Lorenzo White found Patton Ford for a 60-yard swing pass for the biggest play of the drive. Gabriel Stulce then blasted 15 yards and the score was tied at 7-7 following Anthony Weekley’s kick.
Riley Jenne then recorded Baylor’s first interception to give his team first down at the Notre Dame 35. Mekos Baker then hooked up with Ford on a 35-yard option pass with 3:29 left in the first and the Red Raiders were on their way.
Stulce then returned a fumble 36 yards for a TD and the difference was 21-7 when the first quarter ended.
White then made it 28-7 with a keeper from the one with 2:23 left before intermission while Jenne had a pick-six from 70 yards to give Baylor a 35-7 lead at the break.
Wynn then scored his second TD with 3:37 to play.
Baylor was in punt formation at its own 13, but a bad snap led to an incomplete pass by the Red Raider punter, giving Notre Dame first down at that point.
Wynn then scored on the second play for the final TD of the game.
Baylor finished with 218 total yards, including 98 on the ground and 120 through the air.
Valpas had 34 yards on 11 carries while Stulce had 25 on three trips to lead the Baylor ground game.
Ford had three receptions for 106 yards as White completed all four of his first-half passes for 109 yards.
The Red Raiders on had 39 offensive plays for the game.
Notre Dame countered with 226 total yards, including 188 on the ground and 38 through the air.
Wynn picked up 117 on 22 carries and had the one catch for 21 yards. Jeffrey Watkins Jr. added 57 rushing yards on 10 carries and had the other pass reception for 17 yards.
Baylor travels to Knoxville Catholic next Friday for its next game while Notre Dame will be at home to host Trinity Academy.
BAYLOR 21 14 0 0 -- 35
NOTRE DAME 7 0 0 7 – 14
ND – Cameron Wynn 21 pass from Parker Brock (Hunter Hill kick), 6:41 left in first;
BAY – Gabriel Stulce 15 run (Anthony Weekley kick), 5:16 left in first;
BAY – Patton Ford 35 pass from Mekos Baker (Weekley kick), 3:29 left in first;
BAY – Stulce 36 fumble return (Weekley kick), 0:03 left in first;
BAY – Lorenzo White 1 run (Weekley kick), 2:23 left in second;
BAY – Riley Jenne 70 interception return (Weekley kick), 0:03 left in second;
ND – Wynn 6 run (Hill kick), 3:37 left in fourth.
Baylor Notre Dame
First Downs 8 13
Rushing Yards 28-98 40-188
Passing Yards 120 38
Total Yards 218 226
Passes 5-11-0 2-9-3
Penalties 8-50 9-76
Punts 3-36.0 2-34.5
Fumbles 0-0 4-3
(Email John Hunt at email@example.com)