Notre Dame Prep loses nail-biter to Bradshaw Mountain

Photo by Mike Harvey at http://www.peakimagephoto.com.

Photo by Mike Harvey at http://www.peakimagephoto.com.

Notre Dame Preparatory High School’s football team suffered its second loss of the season 36-35 at the hands of Bradshaw Mountain High School.

The Bears (2-1) defeated the Saints (1-2) on a two-point play with approximately two minutes left in the fourth quarter.

“Our team can learn a lot of lessons (from the loss),” Notre Dame head football coach Mark Nolan said in a Sept. 13 phone interview. “They can learn how to battle, how to deal with the ups and downs of a game, or life, and how to push through and believe in yourself.”

The Saints held a 35-21 lead at the end of the third quarter but ultimately fell short.

“We had some opportunities to put it away and we didn’t,” Coach Nolan said. “Our young team will learn that, when presented with those opportunities, we have to seize them and take care of business. The reality is that’s a hard lesson learned for our guys and we’ll come back stronger for it and be better for it. There’s nothing like adversity or challenges to make a team stronger.”

The Bears of Bradshaw Mountain got on the scoreboard first, courtesy of a 40-yard touchdown run from junior quarterback Gunner Bundrick, according to MaxPreps.com.

Notre Dame answered about four minutes later with a 57-yard passing touchdown from sophomore Blake Storey to sophomore wide receiver Jordan Stengel. The Saints extra-point attempt was no good, and they trailed 7-6 after one quarter of play.

In the second quarter, the Bears found the end zone with a seven-yard touchdown run from senior running back Justin Castro.

The Saints answered with a 15-yard touchdown run from sophomore running back Cole Fisher and a two-point connection from junior quarterback Cameron Yowell to junior Kyle Soelle.

The two teams traded touchdowns again, with the Bears scoring on a two-yard rush from Castro and the Saints scoring on a 14-yard rush from sophomore quarterback Kylan Weisser.

With the game tied at 21 and the second quarter coming to a close, the Saints recovered a fumble. Notre Dame capitalized on the turnover with a six-yard touchdown toss from Weisser to Stengel to take a 28-21 lead into halftime.

Notre Dame started off the scoring in the second half with a one-yard touchdown run from Soelle.

The teams then traded turnovers. First, the Saints picked off the Bears, then the Bears recovered a Notre Dame fumble, then the Saints picked off the Bears again. The Saints finished the game with three interceptions and one fumble recovery on defense.

Tyler Taffuri, a senior middle linebacker for the Saints, had seven solo tackles and one interception in the loss. He says the Saints take the turnover battle seriously, as they practice with a “million-dollar drill” where they treat the ball as if it was worth one million dollars. The drill focuses on fumbles, fumble recoveries and interceptions.

“The turnover battle is one of the most important things for our defense,” Taffuri said in a Sept. 14 phone interview. “You can’t win without the ball. The turnover battle is a big focus of our defense and we work really hard to get turnovers.”

At the end of the third quarter, the Saints led the Bears 35-21.

Approximately six minutes into the fourth quarter, according to MaxPreps.com, the Bears’ Bundrick connected with Derrick Fabela on a 41-yard pass to bring Bradshaw Mountain to within one score.

The Bears scored again with close to two minutes remaining in the game on a six-yard touchdown run from Bundrick to take come within one point, 35-34.

Next, the Bears went for the two-point conversion and took a 36-35 lead thanks to a two-yard Bundrick run. The successful two-point play ended up being the game-winning play for Bradshaw Mountain.

“We kind of knew what they were going to do and we set our defense up for success and we had some of our best play makers in position,” Coach Nolan said. “Credit Bradshaw Mountain, they had their best play makers in position, one of which is (Bundrick), and he did a great job of just making it happen.”

Notre Dame senior Connor Graham had five tackles in the game. He says the Saints are moving on from the close loss and focusing on their Thursday, Sept. 17 match-up against Thunderbird High School (3-0).

“A lot of us expected to win that game so it was kind of a bummer,” Graham said in a Sept. 14 interview. “A lot of the guys, we’ve been in that situation, so we know just to put it behind us and move on to next week.”

Photo by Mike Harvey at http://www.peakimagephoto.com.

Photo by Mike Harvey at http://www.peakimagephoto.com.

Scottsdale Independent Sports Correspondent Justin Maskulinski can be contacted at jmaskulinski@newszap.com. Follow him on twitter at twitter.com/Maskulinski.

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