By: Patrick Clancy
On Friday, the Notre Dame football team traveled up to Jersey City to take on the number three ranked team in the state; the St. Peter’s Prep Marauders, in a second round match up in the NJSIAA Non-Public Group 4 Playoffs. The Irish were underdogs heading into the game, but were bolstered by a narrow win over Delbarton in the first round.
The game started with an unexpected bang when Notre Dame’s Coleon Williams took the opening kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown. St. Peter’s quickly responded to the early game lapse, when junior quarterback Tahjamell Bullock found wide receiver Zyeiar Miller for a 50 yard touchdown strike. Bullock would go on to have a tremendous game in the air throwing for over 300 yards and three touchdowns.
After an Irish fumble set up St. Peter’s with a short field, the second big play for the Irish occurred when a misplayed exchange between the Marauders lead to a kind bounce that Cortaz Williams scooped for a 90 yard fumble return. The first quarter came to an end with a surprising score of 14-14.
Following a punt by the Marauders deep in their own endzones, the Irish drove down the field in the second quarter and took the lead from a three yard touchdown run by Cortaz Williams. The St. Peter’s run defense held Williams below his usual lofty standards, but the senior running back still managed 92 yards on the ground for the game.
St. Peter’s broke the game open after Jelani Mason took Notre Dame’s subsequent kickoff 85 yards to tie the game once again. The Marauders would go on to score 23 straight points behind a balanced passing attack that saw Bullock spread the ball among his four receivers. Byron Shipman caught a 30 yard touchdown pass and running back Paul Lefkowitz added a 35 yard touchdown run and a safety, St. Peter’s entered the fourth quarter leading the Irish 37-21.
Notre Dame did not give up however. Early in the fourth, Irish quarterback Jake Renda finished off a drive with a two yard touchdown run that following a successful two point conversion put Notre Dame within one score. St. Peter’s responded with a five yard touchdown reception from Jaylan Sanchez to extend their lead, but the Irish once again fought back when Renda connected with Rickey Spruill for a five yard touchdown pass that cut the lead to a single score.
St. Peter’s would go on to close out the game on defense giving them a tight 43-35 victory. They will go on to play the winner of St. Augustine versus Seton Hall Prep in the semifinals.
For the Irish, who finished with a final record of 10-1, the defeat was disappointing, but ultimately indicative of the successful season they had enjoyed. Entering the playoffs as underdogs, Notre Dame proved that they could beat and hang with the best of non-public group 4.
First year coach Sean Clancy said that he was, “extremely proud of how much intensity and effort our kids brought to the game,”. He added that over the course of the season “Our seniors helped set the tone to put our program heading in the right direction,”.