Notre Dame Prep rallies back to down Cienega, clinches spot in state championship

Running Back Cole Fisher (6) races down field during the Saints’ 54-28 win over St. Mary’s Friday, Sept. 8.  Fisher scored the game-winning touchdown with about three minutes to play.(Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

The No. 4 seed Notre Dame Preparatory Saints outlasted the top-seeded Cienega High School Bobcats 37-34 in a come-from-behind victory in Friday, Nov. 17, night’s 5A state semifinal game at Marana Mountain View High School in Tucson to remain unbeaten.

The Saints (13-0) will play No. 2 Centennial High School in the 5A state championship game at 3:30 p.m. Dec. 2 at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

With 3:50 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Saints elected to go for the first down on fourth and one yard from the three-yard line. Leading up to the play, Notre Dame Prep was 0-for-3 on its first three fourth down plays, with all three resulting in touchdowns drives to follow.

But, this time senior running back Cole Fisher took the hand-off and plunged into the end zone for the winning score with 3:44 left to play. On the ensuing drive, senior cornerback Jordan Stengel intercepted the Bobcats’ (12-1) quarterback Jamarye Joiner on Cienega’s lone fourth down attempt, to seal the win for the Saints.

“It demonstrates their resiliency,” Notre Dame Prep Head Coach George Prelock said after the win. “These kids have been through a lot, we’ve been in some close games and I’m just so proud of the way they responded.”

The Saints trailed 14-0 in the second quarter, when momentum swung. Senior quarterback Kylan Weisser flicked a 30-yard touchdown pass to senior wideout Blake Storey in the back of the end zone. On the ensuing kickoff, the Bobcats fumbled the return and NDP pounced on the ball in the end zone to tie the game at 14 points.

“Obviously at that moment I sensed a change, but it didn’t effect us. (Junior receiver Terrell) Hayward returned a kickoff and we were right back up 10 points, so yeah, there was a change there, but so many things were going to happen after that in this game,” Cienega coach Pat Nugent said after the game.

After opening the third quarter trailing 27-17, the Saints marched down the field and capped the drive with a Fisher touchdown run. Fisher finished with 113 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries on a night the Saints ran for 297 yards. Junior Jake Smith added 143 yards on 10 carries.

“The offensive line blocked great, they came out and won the game,” Coach Prelock said. “Both Cole and Jake did a great job of pounding it, running tough and getting the tough yards. It wasn’t any big ones, but when you’re getting 5-6 yards a pop, it does a lot for our offense’s confidence.”

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