5A state championship: NDP seniors, Coach Prelock close out season on emotional note

Notre Dame Prep captains Cole Fisher (6), Jake Smith (1), Garett Zimmerman (78), Kyle White (25) and Ricky Manning (3) wait to go to midfield for the coin toss prior to the start of the 5A state championship at Arizona Stadium in Tucson. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

Tucson — When the Notre Dame Preparatory football team took the field at Arizona Stadium in Tucson, it did so with a senior-heavy team and a freshman coach leading the charge.

That’s not to say Head Coach George Prelock is a coach of the freshmen team, although he used to be that, but rather that he’s in his first year as head coach of the Saints.

NDP Head Coach George Prelock tries to rally his team prior to the start of the fourth quarter of the 5A state championship at Arizona Stadium in Tucson. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

He commandeered a roster that featured 34 seniors, all who experienced last year’s playoff ban the Arizona Interscholastic Association imposed for a pair of rule violations.

He took that roster on an almost-undefeated season with the team’s only loss coming in the Saturday, Dec. 2, 5A state championship game, which ended in Centennial High School winning 42–21 in Tucson.

Even though the end result was not what he wanted, quarterback Kylan Weisser had all praise for Coach Prelock after the game.

“He’s a great coach,” he said after the game. “I’m undefeated except for this one under him and it’s one of the greatest feelings getting to play for such an amazing man.”

Coach Prelock’s coaching of many of this year’s Saints goes back to when they were freshmen and he was the head freshmen coach.

He said it’s been “amazing” to watch many of these players grow from freshmen to seniors playing for the state championship.

“I’m so happy and I’m so proud of them,” he said after the game. “Obviously, we’d like the result to turn out better but you know what? It’s a learning experience. Hopefully, this is just one great moment and they’ll have greater moments than this.”

Running back Cole Fisher chats with a teammate prior to the start of the third quarter of the 5A state championship at Arizona Stadium in Tucson. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

Much in the same way Coach Prelock has known many of these players for years, many of Saints have been playing together since middle school.

After the game, several players embraced while holding back tears and reminiscing of how long they had played together. Running back Cole Fisher was one of them.

“There’s a lot of tears being shed because we’ve all been together since middle school,” he said after the game. “We’ve all been playing together so it’s tough but I’m very thankful to be playing with this group of guys for four years and I wouldn’t trade them for anybody.”

Late in the game, Weisser threw a 25-yard pass to Fisher into the end zone with little time left on the clock and the game out of reach.

Still, that touchdown left Fisher running off the field emotional because he got one last touchdown from his quarterback and friend.

“We’ve been really close and it definitely meant something,” he said. “It was nice to have one.”

While many of the Saints left the field hanging their heads after the loss, Weisser said this season was a meaningful experience.

The Notre Dame Prep Saints shake hands with the Centennial Coyotes after the 5A state championship game at Arizona Stadium in Tucson. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

He also said what added to the experience was how the team came together at the beginning of the season and “worked their butts off” throughout it.

Even in the face of defeat, Weisser had a message for those seniors who were feeling down on themselves.

“I told them after the game ‘keep your head high, look at where we’re at,’” he said. “‘We’re at the University of Arizona stadium playing for a state championship.’

“Yeah we lost, it wasn’t the score we wanted but we did a great thing for this school and we had everybody behind us. It was one of the greatest seasons of football of my life and I’ve had many of those.”

Weisser wasn’t the only one with a positive message for this team. Coach Prelock said he has a strong love for his team.

“They’re the most resilient kids I’ve ever met,” he said. “I’m so proud and honored to be their coach.”

News Services Reporter Josh Martinez can be contacted at jmartinez@newszap.com or at 623-445-2738

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