Big defensive plays and a timely short passing game were the turning points for the Horizon Huskies in their 32-21 victory over Notre Dame on Friday night.
Horizon’s defense shut down the Saints attack from the opening kickoff, forcing Notre Dame into a predictable rushing attack for much of the first half.
The Huskies (Div. II, 8-2) sacked opposing quarterback Nick Duckworth six times, one of which resulted in a lost fumble. Senior Ryan Neel intercepted a pass and returned it 70 yards for a touchdown in what was the game’s turning point. Horizon also had two second-half interceptions in their own end zone.
“I just dedicated the game ball to the defense," Horizon coach Doug Shaffer said. "They played a great game."
After a scoreless first quarter, Horizon switched their offensive strategy to a screen-heavy passing approach. Using this gameplan, senior running back Charlie Quinn was able to slash through the Saints defense and score three times in the game, twice on the ground and once in the air.
Quarterback Dalton Sneed completed 11 passes for 206 yards, but it was backup wide receiver Mark Robinson who completed the game’s most exciting pass, an end around option pass to Jason McLaurin for a 21-yard touchdown.
The Saints’ offense never got going and their defense, which played well early, could only hold the Horizon offense for so long. The running game was abandoned early in the third quarter when the score become lopsided at 26-7. Duckworth was forced to throw for the entire second half and completed 22 of his 40 passes overall for 316 yards, two touchdowns, and three interceptions.
“No excuses, we [had been] playing good football,” Saints coach Gary Gregory said. “We picked a horrible night to play and coach one of our worst games of the year.”
Several receivers for Notre Dame Prep (Div. II, 5-5) had big games, including Grant Martinez (111 yards, two touchdowns) and Bailey Jones (105 yards, one touchdown). Drops were a problem for the team, however, and Duckworth’s two end zone interceptions ended any chance the Saints had late in the game.
Coach Shaffer was excited about his team’s chances in the playoffs.
“This was probably the biggest win of the year for us,” he said. “We’ll see what kind of seeding we have, but it’s a great way to start the playoffs going in with a win instead of a loss.”
Horizon 32, Notre Dame Prep 21
H 0 13 19 0 – 32
NDP 0 0 6 8 – 21
First Downs – H 11; ND 20
Rushing-Yards – H 27-90; ND 25-95
Comp.-Att-Yards– H 12-20-227; ND 23-41-273
Fumbles-Lost – H 1-0; ND 2-2
Penalties/Yards – H 6-55; ND 8-55
NDP – Luke Taffuri 1 run (Grayson Naquin kick)
H – Charlie Quinn 7 pass from Sneed (kick failed)
H – Jason McLaurin 21 pass from Sneed (Danny McAtamney kick)
H – Charlie Quinn 1 run (kick failed)
H – Ryan Neel 70 interception return (Danny McAtamney kick)
NDP – Bailey Jones 18 pass from Duckworth (Conversion failed)
H – Charlie Quinn 51 run (Danny McAtamney kick)
NDP – Grant Martinez 20 pass from Duckworth (Duckworth to Martinez)