An offensive shootout for three quarters turned into a defensive battle in the fourth. In the end, Notre Dame Prep made just enough plays to eke out a 35-34 victory over Paradise Valley at Scottsdale Community College on Friday night.
For three quarters, the Saints (6-3) and Trojans (5-4) traded points and touchdown drives. It was an offensive shootout that figured to come down to who had the ball last. That all changed in the fourth quarter, as the defenses stepped up to shut down the offenses.
As neither team’s offense could separate from each other, the game was ultimately decided in the special teams department. Paradise Valley kicker Devin Moon missed a 33-yard field goal attempt with just 1:16 left in the game that would have given the Trojans the lead and possibly the win. This missed kick, along with a missed extra point attempt on Paradise Valley’s first touchdown, proved to be the undoing for the Trojans.
“We’ve been resilient all year long,” Notre Dame coach Gary Gregory said. “We keep finding a way to win. It’s not pretty I know, but I’m just so proud of the kids. They just keep hanging in there and fighting and fighting when things look so bleak. This is about our third or fourth win this way this year. We keep finding a way to win. That’s the key.”
The game featured an interesting clash in styles as Notre Dame’s grind-it-out rushing attack matched up against Paradise Valley’s no huddle aerial attack. In the first half, both styles seemed to be working as both offenses seemed to be able to move the ball and score at will.
The Trojans scored on four of their six first half drives. Quarterback Daniel Bridge-Gadd had a huge first half completing 21 of 29 passes for 245 yards and four touchdowns with an interception. For the game, Bridge-Gadd finished 28 of 41 for 367 yards with five touchdowns and one interception.
The Saints piled up three first-half touchdowns on their own, piling up 142 yards on the ground. For the game, Notre Dame gained 310 rushing yards, dominating the time of possession battle and controlling the clock. The Saints had the ball for over 17 minutes in the second half. Running back Connor Graham was the star of the night, rushing for 229 yards and two touchdowns on 39 carries.
“We started off a little slow, but we got it together there in the second half,” Graham said. “Our running game was there the whole night. The o-line was doing great. I have to give credit to them. They blocked perfectly and I just happened to find the holes.”
The third quarter was a continuation of the first half, as Notre Dame scored on both of their drives while Paradise Valley needed only two plays to score on their lone drive of the quarter. Once the fourth quarter started, it was the defenses that stepped up though. On the first play of the quarter, the Trojans went for it on a 4th and 9 on their own 49 yard line and failed to convert.
Set up with great field position, the Saints took over, but they too turned it over on downs. Paradise Valley then took over and were able to move the ball to midfield before being unable to convert on a 4th and 6. Notre Dame took over and looked to be on the verge of putting the game away with another score, but Graham fumbled on the Trojan 19.
Able to build off the momentum of the turnover, Paradise Valley was able to move the ball to the Saints 8. But a delay of game penalty and a negative run by Bridge-Gadd stalled the drive and brought out Moon for the field goal attempt. His attempt was wide right and Notre Dame was able to hold on for the win.
“We went in there at halftime and made some big adjustments,” Gregory said. “Then sure enough they went right over the top of that adjustment and hit us for a 70-yard touchdown. To be honest with you, we came back with the same game plan and let 22 (Jordan Schlueter) roam right over the top. We went right back to the defense we worked on all week long. We ended up just moving our guys around instead of being just stagnant. Our defense did a better job of mixing it up and we had a couple kids make just enough plays to win.”
Notre Dame Prep 35, Paradise Valley 34
First Downs: Notre Dame 28, Paradise Valley 20
Rushing: Notre Dame 52-310, Paradise Valley 18-96
Passing (comp.-att.-TD-INT): Notre Dame 12-20-145-1-2, Paradise Valley 28-41-367-5-1
Fumbles-Lost: Notre Dame 1-1, Paradise Valley 0-0
Penalties-yards: Notre Dame 6-54, Paradise Valley 7-55
Notre Dame Prep 7 14 14 0 - 35
Paradise Valley 6 21 7 0 - 34
Paradise Valley: Jacob Brown 23 pass from Bridge-Gadd (kick failed)
Notre Dame: Rodriguez 8 pass from Lehman (Naquin kick)
Paradise Valley: Jordan Brown 54 pass from Bridge-Gadd (Moon kick)
Notre Dame: Cole 1 run (Naquin kick)
Paradise Valley: Best 15 pass from Bridge-Gadd (Moon kick)
Paradise Valley: Jordan Brown 8 pass from Bridge-Gadd (Moon kick)
Notre Dame: Schlueter 8 run (Naquin kick)
Notre Dame: Graham 5 run (Naquin kick)
Paradise Valley: Jordan Brown 72 pass from Bridge-Gadd (Moon kick)
Notre Dame: Graham 5 run (Naquin kick)