Notre Dame over Southern Lehigh
As the cars and buses filed out of the Notre Dame High School Football stadium well past 10 o’clock it was no longer a field, but a battleground christened by the blood of Spartans and Crusaders. Puddles soaked the once green carpet, not from the rain of several hours earlier but from the sweat of the combatants. Ambulance tracks left imprints on a field that was visibly scarred. The 40-35 Notre Dame victory was an aerial battle so entrenched in flare, guts, and pure determination that it would rival the famous duels between the Red Baron himself and Lanoe Hawker.
The Spartans came into the Friday night matchup against the Notre Dame Crusaders as a considerable underdog to the fellow Colonial League title contender. Fueled by adrenaline and excitement, junior running back Luke Strauss ripped off a 75-yard run straight down the middle to put up six points on the very first play of the game.
Notre Dame sophomore QB Cole Defranco responded less than a minute later when he took advantage of a significant size advantage for his 5’11’ senior wide receiver Jalen Simpson on 5’6” Spartan safety Timmy Walter. He threw up a jump ball and Simpson came down with it on the 22-yard touchdown pass. At the conclusion of the first quarter the score remained 7-7, a familiar score for the Spartans after 12 minutes.
After a lackluster first quarter, the Crusaders offense would light up the scoreboard before halftime began. About 45 seconds into the period, after driving the length of the field, the Crusaders were held to a fourth down and would opt to kick a field goal to take the lead 10-7.
On the Spartans following drive the Notre Dame defense came up big. After a thunderous kick from junior kicker Tucker Eighmy, the Spartans were pinned back in the shadow of their own end zone. The Crusaders would force Southern Lehigh to punt. Following a high snap, junior Sam Viera broke free of his blocker and blocked the punt in the back of the zone. The Crusaders recovered the ball to extend their lead to 17-7. The Crusaders offensive onslaught would continue as they scored their third unanswered touchdown on a 22-yard pass from Defranco to senior running back Mitch Daniel.
With the quarter over half over, the Spartans offense finally came out of its shell. Southern Lehigh drove the ball down the field on an offensive series led by the running and receiving of Luke Strauss, the Spartans would finally punch in their only points of the quarter on a three-yard TD pass from sophomore QB Logan Edmond to a wide open Timmy Walter in the back of the end zone. With the half coming to a close, the Notre Dame offense did not let up when they scored on an 11-yard touchdown run from Daniel to close out the half with a 30-14 lead.
The Spartans would not back down from the battle despite being down by two possessions and being a significant underdog coming into the game. After forcing the Crusaders to punt, the Spartans would drive down the field and score on a 17-yard touchdown pass to Walter. From there, the rest of the quarter would be a defensive tug of war aside from a 30-yard field goal from Eighmy.
To start the fourth quarter the Crusaders scored a quick touchdown less than a minute in on a 24-yard touchdown for the second Defranco-Simpson hookup of the game. A cynical mind might have believed that the Spartans comeback hopes were dashed with the score now 40 to 21 in favor of the Crusaders.
But what would ensue was a desperate, frenzied, comeback attempt from the injury riddled Spartans. It would begin on a long drive for the Spartans that took a decent chunk of time off the clock. However 14 plays after the drive began, Edmond would find a hobbled Walter in the end zone for the third time that game on a 21 yard dart.
With renewed spirits, the Spartans kickoff team would attempt on onside kick with 5:57 remaining on the clock, however the Crusaders would come up with the ball. On the following drive, the Crusaders just wanted to kill the clock and hang on to the lead, however the Spartans defense hounded the Crusaders offensive line and forced a fumble at midfield. The shootout would not end.
Notre Dame would hold the Spartans to a third down, but Edmond would find junior receiver Eli Price on an out route who shook off his defender and sprinted 49 yards to the house to make the score 35-40. The comeback attempt was not over yet, the Spartans got the ball back with no timeouts on their own 20 with three minutes left. The Spartans could not muster a first down and would turn the ball over on downs. They would come up six points short in the 35-40 loss.
Over the course of the game the Spartans accumulated over 500 yards of total offense. Logan Edmond would continue to impress, posting his best game to date with a stat line that looked like it was straight out of the Texas Tech Air Raid offense. The young gunslinger would finish the game 25-43 with 335 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception. The numbers would be even more inflated if it were not for two drops that had they been caught the receiver would have had a wide-open lane for a touchdown.
— EasternPAFootball (@EPAFootball) September 10, 2016
Luke Strauss toted the rock nine times and garnered 134 rushing yards and one touchdown for his best game to date. Eli Price would lead the Spartans in receiving with five receptions for 116 yards and one touchdown, Walter would haul in three touchdowns during the game.
The Crusaders offense was equally as impressive despite only amassing half the first downs as the Spartans and only 333 yards of total offense. Cole Defranco finished the game 16-27 for 254 yards and three touchdowns. He also led the Crusaders in rushing yards with 33. Jalen Simpson led Notre Dame in receiving with four receptions for 76 yards and two touchdowns.
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