Notre Dame Prep football gleans motivation from adversity

Notre Dame Prep football is serving a self-imposed ban of spring football and can return to the field starting Tuesday, May 29. (submitted photo)

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the Notre Dame Preparatory football team is looking to rise from its own ashes of adversity.

NDP is serving a self-imposed spring football ban for several Arizona Interscholastic Association bylaw violations.

While coaches can’t host organized practices during the spring football period, the student-athletes still got to work in the weight room. They also got together on their own without coaches to work on techniques and worked out for college coaches.

The spring football period runs throughout May and wraps up Monday, May 29 for NDP.

In October 2016, the school invoked the ban in hopes the AIA Executive Board would lift a pair of concurrently-running probations for violating association bylaws.

Those violations included an out-of-season padded football offered for credit and a letter promoting a camp deemed a recruiting offense.

The school also fired former head football coach Mark Nolan in hopes of swaying the AIA’s decision. In the end, the AIA only rescinded one probation and expected NDP to follow through on its self-imposed ban.

On top of that, the stadium lighting at Scot Bemis Field was non-compliant with city standards, forcing the team to play two of its games at Scottsdale Community College. The city recently approved the lights.

The level of adversity this football team has faced off the field can be staggering for some, but quarterback Kylan Weisser said it has been a motivating measure for the Saints.

“We’ve definitely put it behind us and set our eyes on the goal at-hand,” he said in a May 24 interview. “We have great chemistry as a team and we’re together in this and we’ve got one of the best leaders in the state. We’re ready.”

With the wind seemingly at their backs, first-year head coach George Prelock said it’s a relief to focus on just football and everyone on the team is counting down to Tuesday, May 30, when the team can get back out and practice.

“They’ve come together as a unit and this has made us closer as a team because we’re all going through the same things. This isn’t something any of us wanted. It’s not something the kids had control of,” he said in a May 24 interview.

“One of the things we have talked about is what we do have control of and when we come out this Tuesday, we have control over what we can do in the month of June heading into August to best be prepared to have a successful season.”

A spring of no football

The AIA allows high schools to conduct spring football practices for three consecutive weeks starting on the “44th week of the AIA standardized calendar and concluding in the 46th week,” according to AIA bylaws.

George Prelock

These practices are voluntary and non-padded, but the AIA does allow the use of dummies and shields, AIA bylaws state.

For NDP, organized practices and team meetings during this time were not allowed, leaving many athletes to their own devices.

Notre Dame Prep was allowed to have coaches present during weight lifting and agility sessions for safety reasons as long as there is no football instruction, Coach Prelock said.

Weisser said he and his teammates took advantage of the weight room, working out every day except the past few because of school finals.

Another part of the ban included coaches not being allowed to attend a student-athlete’s workout for a college scout or coach. An administrator would accompany the student-athlete at the workout on the school’s grass field.

Once the evaluation concluded and the ball was put away, Coach Prelock can be there to answer questions while a student-athlete performs agility drills, he said.

During this spring football time, Coach Prelock said the team took great care not to violate any rules.

Behind the scenes, Coach Prelock and his staff have been hard at work preparing for summer practices.

“As a coaching staff, we’ve been in here on Saturdays working hard,” he said.

“I’ve been in here on Sundays as well just working hard, trying to install everything so once Tuesday comes and we’re able to go out for summer ball, everything is so organized, everything is so detailed in our practice plans. Literally, time is of the essence and we’re going to get in everything we need to get in — in order to be successful.”

Coach Prelock hasn’t only worked to be organized during the spring season started, but before it as well.

He said prior to the start of the spring season, he could have a few player meetings where he discussed plays and give the student-athletes plays or schemes to study.

With all this preparation and work put in, Weisser said the team does not feel behind in regard to the rest of the high schools in the Arizona.

“We already have all of our practice plans set for summer so as soon as day one hits, we’re ready to go and we’re getting everything in,” he said. “We’re confident we’re going to be ready.”

The Notre Dame high school football team will take to the field this fall under first-year head coach George Prelock (Submitted photo)

Looking to the future

Despite all the adversity the Saints faced this offseason, there was one positive lessons Weisser took away from it all.

“It’s brought us together more as a team because you unite in times of trouble and hardship,” he said. “It’s something that has brought us together and we’re hungry for next year.”

Weisser, like many other incoming seniors on the team, had to watch last year’s seniors play to an 8–2 overall record and a region championship — typically an automatic bid to the playoffs — only to have their postseason hopes dashed.

“I think our boys were taught a life lesson that nothing is necessarily given to you in life,” Coach Prelock said. “Things are sometimes out of your control and what you have control of are your own actions.”

That adversity is not lost on the team as Coach Prelock said he thinks seeing what last year’s senior had to endure has motivated them for the upcoming season.

Coach Prelock noticed the student-athletes have done all that was asked of them and they have been steadfast in keeping the rules.

“They’re ready to go,” he said. “They’re ready to get back to football. I think that energy is going to be there and I can’t wait to see it this coming Tuesday.”

Along with building a successful program, Coach Prelock is also tasked with restoring an image of Notre Dame Prep football tarnished by bad publicity last year.

He spent eight years under former head coach Scot Bemis, whose name adorns the Saints’ stadium. Coach Prelock expects what he was taught under Coach Bemis will benefit him as he moves on as head coach.

Several attributes Coach Prelock remembers of Coach Bemis is kindness and generosity to others.

“That’s something I want our players, our student-athletes to understand,” he said. “To be nice to people, be genuine to people and as long as that happens, everything will fall into place.”

With lessons from Coach Bemis in his head, Coach Prelock now sets out to provide his own positive impact on his players, helping them to become community leaders, faithful young men and role models.

So far, he is not disappointed given the amount of adversity and how the team has not had a negative attitude through it all.

“The team’s united and they’re anxious to play and they’re excited to play,” he said. “We know as long as we work hard and we do what we’re supposed to do, we’ll have a great opportunity this upcoming season.”

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

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