Feel free to call the Notre Dame Saints road warriors.
You won’t hear any argument from them.
As the school puts the finishing touches on state-of-the-art Scot Bemis Field, first-year coach Mark Nolan has gotten a nice tour of his new Arizona home after accepting the job and moving down from Colorado this spring.
First it was a season-opening win at Tolleson. Week two took the Saints out to Mesa to battle top-ranked Skyline. Last week it was a trip up the I-10 and a heart-breaking loss to Bradshaw Mountain in Prescott Valley. Then Thursday night Nolan’s team overcame a flurry of turnovers and beat previously undefeated Thunderbird 27-19 in the Chiefs’ backyard.
“Thunderbird’s a great team, they’re very well-coached,” Nolan told Sports360AZ.com after the game. “Our guys just felt that we were a little overdue to put things together in all three phases. We just knew we had to keep swinging the hammer and the rock would break.”
It was just the kind of effort Nolan expected after his players quickly flushed Friday’s 36-35 loss which saw the Saints get outscored 15-0 in the fourth quarter. His message heading into the fourth quarter was simply: finish.
Kyle Soelle took his coaches’ advice to heart.
Nursing a seven-point lead, teammate Spencer Stanton blocked a T-bird field goal attempt and Soelle scooped up the loose ball and rumbled 70 yards down the sideline, in front of an elated NDP bench, to essentially seal the game with just over five minutes to play.
“I knew we needed a touchdown,” Soelle explained. “Just picked it up. [I] knew I was going to get into the back of the end zone.”
Thursday there would be no late-game letdown as the Saints’ defense locked up Thunderbird’s offense in the closing minutes, took over on downs and ran out the clock for their most impressive victory of the young season.
Surviving the road gauntlet 2-2 brings promise for the Saints (who moved down to Division II this year) as the schedule flips, starting with the christening of the school’s first-ever on-campus football stadium next week against Sunnyslope. NDP finishes the season with four of their last six games inside their new home.
“It’s going to be so sweet,” Nolan said of the Saints’ new home, flashing a wide grin. “With that Jumbotron, the two press boxes in a college-quality stadium. It’s going to be so cool.”