September 2, 2016 (Scottsdale, AZ) – The Notre Dame Prep Saints (2-1) renewed its rivalry with 6A neighbor Desert Mountain (0-2) after a year hiatus and earned an impressive 56-42 road win. The Saints offense amassed over 560yds on the night, led by RB Cole Fisher's 211yds rushing and 3TDs. The Wolves high-powered offense proved to be a test for the Saints defense, but it made key stops and forced the game's only turnover – a Ricky Manning interception – to keep NDP in control all night. The rivalry had been dominated recently by Desert Mountain and the victory ended the Wolves 6-year win streak over the Saints.
The game atmosphere was electric as nearly 5,000 fans packed the stands at Desert Mountain and the game banter had both student sections in top form. The Saints received the opening kickoff and wasted little time in establishing its power run game. A 43yd run by Fisher was followed by a 24yd dash by RB Jake Smith to set up the Saints with a 1st & goal at the Wolves 8. Smith finished off the 4-play drive with an 8yd yd run and K Clay Donaghey's PAT gave the Saints a 7-0 lead. The Saints defense forced a quick 3-and-out punt from the Wolves and the offense took over again. Runs from Fisher and RB Drew Jackse netted a 1st down, then a keeper by QB Cameron Yowell and pass to WR Blake Storey added another. After a DM penalty set up the Saints at the Wolves' 17, Fisher slashed his way to the endzone from 15yds out and Donaghey's PAT increased the Saints's lead to 14-0. The Wolves offense continued to sputter against the Saints defense, and again failed to get a 1st down on the following possession. The Saints looked to build on their lead and used the passing game to move downfield on the Wolves. Yowell completed passes to Jackse, Storey and WR Justin Maschek, driving the Saints to the Wolves 30 as the 1st quarter ended. On the 1st paly of the 2nd quarter, the Saints staff called the perfect play, the double pass. Yowell fired the back pass to Kylan Weisser, who lined up at WR, and he connected with a wide open Jacke in the endzone for a 30yd TD. Another Donaghey PAT made the lead 21-0 and the home crowd was in stunned silence. However, it was only a matter of time before the Wolves high-powered offense would get going, and it did on the next drive. QB Austin Neussle engineered a 5-play, 75yd drive capped by a 28yd TD pass to WR Kade Warner to cut the Saints' lead to 21-7. After a penalty stalled the Saints' next drive, Neussle answered with another 5-play scoring drive covering 55yds, finishing with a 12yd TD pass to WR Jake LaSalle. With its lead cut to 21-14, the Saints again drove into Wolves territory with strong running from Smith and Fisher and a 16yd Yowell connection to TE Harrison Copoloff. The drive stalled at the Wolves 30 and Fisher was stopped a ½ yd short on 4th down, giving the "red hot" Nuessle a chance to even the score. But the Saints defense stepped up to force a Wolves punt and gave the NDP offense one last possession in the half. Yowell's 7yd pass to Maschek moved the chains for a 1st down with 21 seconds left. Yowell's 15yd scramble appeared to end the half, but a facemask penalty set up an untimed down. Weisser's "Hail Mary" was batted down in the end zone to send both teams to the locker room with the Saints leading 21-14.
The 2nd half started off with the Wolves getting the ball on the 20 after Donaghey's kick sailed through the end zone. Halftime did not cool down Neussle and his screen pass to WR Josh Walker on the first play covered 80yds and the game was tied at 21 in a flash. The Saints needed to respond and they did in the form of a 9-play, 54yd drive that featured Fisher covering all but 3yds behind the Saints offensive line of Girardin, Nadolski, Forte, Zimmerman and Zellers. Fisher's 2nd TD of the game from 3yds put and Donaghey's PAT gave the Saints the lead 28-21. The Wolves looked to respond but DB Ricky Manning picked off Nuessle and set up the Saints on the Wolves 35. A 13yd run by Smith and another Yowell to Copoloff connection set up a 1st & goal from the Wolves 4. Yowell's QB sneak from 2yds out extended the Saints lead to 35-21 after Donaghey's PAT. After an exchange of punts, the Wolves answered with a 55yd TD run by RB Nick Hill to close within 35-28 as the 3rd quarter ended. The Saints marched into Wolves territory with strong runs by Smith and a QB keeper by Weisser. The Saints' running game had set the tone for the game and the Wolves began to commit its defense to stopping it at all costs. Taking full advantage, OC Mike Brown dialed up the perfect play call and Weisser hit Maschek on a seam route for a diving catch in the end zone for a 42-28 lead. The Saints defense stepped up again to force a Wolves punt and the Saints took possession near midfield. Smith and Fisher gashed the Wolves defense for big gains, and then Weisser found a wide open TE Michael Walsh in the end zone for his 3rd TD pass of the game. The 22yd pass and Donaghey PAT sent the Dog Pound into a frenzy as the reality of defeat began to set in on the Wolves sidelines. Nuessle quickly drove the Wolves for score against a relaxed Saints defense, finishing with a short TD pass to Warner to close the gap to 49-35 with under 2 minutes left. After a failed onsides kick attempt was recovered by the Saints on their own 45, Fisher took the handoff and put his final stamp on the game. His 55yd tackle-breaking romp left several Wolves defenders in his wake and sealed the favorable outcome for the Saints with a 56-35 lead. A late TD pass by Nuessle in the final seconds provided little solace for the Wolves as the scoreboard showed a 56-42 Saints victory.
With the win, the Saints showed the ability to rebound from the loss to Desert Edge and keep their focus and execute the game plan during the rivalry game. An exceptional effort by Fisher and Smith leading the team's rushing attack (397yds) behind great blocking by the Saints offensive line, and efficient QB play from both Yowell (97 total yds/1TD rush) and Weisser (117 total yds/3TD passes). The defense made plays when needed in the 2nd half to help restore control of the game and shift the momentum on Manning's INT. Now the Saints turn their focus to revisit another rival that was not on their schedule last season as they face St. Mary's on the road at Phoenix College at 7pm on Friday, September 9th. The Knights (1-2) are in their first season under new coach Tommy Brittan and always prove to be a tough challenge for the Saints.