The Notre Dame Cougars high school football team picked up their fifth win of the season, last Friday, thanks to a road victory over the Lacombe Rams at ME Global Athletic Park.
The Cougars earned a hard-fought 34-17 win on the shoulders of their two running backs, who combined for 312 yards rushing and four touchdowns.
“We played well and we played well enough to win. Our running game was very good and our defense played well at times,” said Head Coach Gino Castellan after the game.
The last time the two teams met, Notre Dame handed Lacombe a 37-14 loss and while the six-point difference between this game and the last may not look like much, it made a world of difference for Castellan.
“Lacombe improved. They got better and that’s good to see,” he said, adding that while he thinks the better team still won, Lacombe put up a fight, especially in the second half. I do give credit to Lacombe. They didn’t quit, you know? They haven’t won a game and they fought hard, so that was good to see.”
The game remained scoreless until late in the first quarter. In the last couple of minutes of the first, Lacombe’s defense forced the Cougars to punt the ball after they failed to get past their own 50 yard line. The ensuing punt, a 30-yarder by Parker Dahl, sailed through the air and landed in front of Lacombe Rams punt returner David Mueller. The ball took a funny bounce off the turf and sailed over Mueller’s head and bounced to the Lacombe 25-yard line where Beko Wande of the Cougars pounced on it to make sure his team retained possession of the ball. Not long after that, on the last play of the first quarter, Cougars running back Johannes Smith plowed through the Lacombe defense for a 17-yard touchdown run to put his team up by six.
“(Johannes) has been struggling here lately and I thought today he had a good game; he ran hard,” Castellan said.
Smith was handed the ball just nine times but managed to earn 129 rushing yards. That’s an average of 14.3 yards per carry.
Unfortunately for the Cougars, a tough bobbled snap on the point after meant the score would remain 6-0 going into the second quarter.
The Cougars’ defense went to work and forced a two-and-out on the ensuing Rams’ drive to regain possession of the ball and send the offense back on the field. Two minutes later, they picked up their second score of the game on a 17-yard run by Justin Fedun, who went on to record a game high 175-yards rushing and two touchdowns.
This time, Dahl made no mistake and fired the point after through the uprights to give the team a 13-0 lead.
After that score, Lacombe went on the offensive and responded with a drive of their own that almost culminated in a huge TD pass by quarterback Johnathan Ericson to wide receiver Mueller, who made a diving catch in the end zone in order to make the play.
Unfortunately for the Rams, however, a holding penalty at the line of scrimmage called the touchdown back and force them to repeat the second down. The Cougars’ defense seized the opportunity to redeem themselves and made two huge stops on the ensuing two plays, forcing a turnover on downs to gain possession of the ball with only a couple of minutes remaining in the half.
The time pressure didn’t bother quarterback Devin Desormean, though. While the Cougars elected to run the ball most of the game, Desormean made sure that he could make passes when it mattered.
On the ensuing drive, the Cougars managed their remaining time well and worked their way up field. Finally, with just 28 seconds left in the half, Desormean took the snap, faked a hand off, and then connected with Dahl for a 22-yard TD pass. Dahl would then kick his own point after to put his team up 20 at the break.
Desormean passed for 79-yards and four completions on five attempts on the day. The second half was much tougher on the Cougars. They were outscored 17-14, including a punt that Rams’ star Mueller took back up field for a 62-yard touchdown.
Mueller was also a killer on offense as he had 90-yards receiving and both of his team’s touchdowns.
When asked what his team could have improved on in the game, Castellan was clear the team need to be more disciplined. “We gotta stop taking penalties. You can’t win tight games with a lot of penalties like that.”
The Cougars took 17 penalties totalling 173-yards over the course of the game. At one point in the game they were faced with a situation where they had 40-yards to go on their second down because of penalties. Despite the penalties, though, the Cougars’ defense managed to shut down the surging Rams’ offence late in the game while Smith and Fedun both added touchdowns to lock up the victory.
With the win, the Cougars move to a 4-2 record on the season. Next up they’ll face Hunting Hills, who are currently undefeated and coming off a 37-0 win over Lindsay Thurber this week.