In a game of miscues, it was Notre Dame Prep that made the big play for its third win in the last four tries.
At Scottsdale Community College Friday, the Saints (4-3), had six turnovers and a missed field goal, but converted a fourth-and-20 late and scored the game-winner on Connor Graham’s third touchdown of the night, a 3-yard run with just 39 seconds remaining, giving the Saints a 24-21 victory over Cave Creek Cactus Shadows (4-3, 0-1).
“I told (Cactus Shadows) coach (Greg) Davis, I was happy for our kids, but I felt for their kids,” said Notre Dame Prep coach Gary Gregory. “They battled, too, but we made one more play.”
The Falcons equaled the Saints' six turnovers, but missed three field goals, including a 47-yarder as time ran out.
A strong return from Mike Leonard -- after the Graham score -- and a 15-yard late hit penalty, gave Cactus Shadows the ball in Notre Dame territory. Quarterback Payton Ringwald, who at the 3:16 mark gave the Falcons their first lead, 21-17, with a 16-yard quarterback draw, completed a pair of passes, but Antonio Marchica’s attempt to force overtime went wide to the right.
“There were a lot of fireworks both ways,” Gregory said. “I imagine if you were in the stands, on both sides, it was a great game to watch. Our kids played hard.”
The head of the fireworks was NDP senior Jordan Schlueter, who made his share of bangs on both sides.
He had two interceptions and four plays on offense of 20 yards or more; two on rushes and two on receptions from Saints quarterback Thomas Lehman. He made two big game-changing plays, one on each side of the ball.
He was on the receiving end of Lehman’s 38-yard pass on fourth-and-20, getting open down the right sideline. On defense, he intercepted a Ringwald pass in the end zone, intended for junior tight end Braxton Gallion, who was on the receiving end of eight passes.
“We have a kid in Jordan Schlueter and he was making play after play,” Gregory said.
Notre Dame opened the second half with the ball and quickly made it 14-0, marching down for a nine-play, 60-yard drive and scoring on another Graham 3-yard run.
The Falcons didn’t get their first points until the 1:43 mark of the third quarter, Ringwald, after a 22-yard pass to Gallion, scored on a 1-yard run.
Each team scored twice in the final 6:15. Grayson Naquin made the score 17-7 on a 51-yard field goal, but the Falcons answered with two scores in 60 seconds.
Ringwald hit Bruno Rodriguez on a 20-yard strike at the 4:16 mark to cut it to 17-14, and after Taylor Wilson picked off Lehman and returned the ball to the Saints 16, Ringwald gave the Falcons the lead.
Notre Dame Prep 24, Cactus Shadows 21
First Downs: CS 17, ND 12
Rushing: CS 27-31, ND 34-134
Passing (comp.-att.-TD-INT): CS 21-34-1-271-4, ND 12-24-0-200-2
Fumbles-lost: CS 3-2, ND 4-4
Penalties-yards: CS 8-66, ND 9-95
Cactus Shadows 0 0 7 14 -- 21
Notre Dame Prep 7 0 7 10 -- 24
ND: Graham 4 run (Naquin kick)
ND: Graham 3 run (Naquin kick)
CS: Ringwald 1 run (Marchica kick)
ND: Naquin 51 FG
CS: Rodriguez 20 pass from Ringwald (Marchica kick)
CS: Ringwald 16 run (Marchica kick)
ND: Graham 3 run (Naquin kick)