HAMDEN >> Last Thanksgiving, Notre Dame star running back Cam Tucker carried the ball 29 times for 243 yards and four touchdowns.
It would be a relatively lighter workload for Tucker this time around, but still the same result for the Green Knights.
An opportunistic Notre Dame defense forced five turnovers and the Green Knights blocked a punt, keying a 43-7 win over Hamden on Thursday in the 63rd annual Green Bowl.
Tucker rushed just nine times for 57 yards and a touchdown, but it wasn’t because Tucker had a poor game. Notre Dame just didn’t really need him. The Green Knights created turnovers and capitalized. Notre Dame (5-6) ran just 17 plays from scrimmage in the first half and jumped out to a 29-0 lead.
“Yeah, I can play another game, definitely,” said Tucker with a smile. “I’m not tired at all.”
The Green Knights have now won the last eight against their rival and lead the holiday series 39-21-2.
Notre Dame quickly took a 7-0 lead when quarterback Christian Lupoli faked a handoff and rushed down the right sideline for a 43-yard touchdown on the Green Knights’ third play from scrimmage.
Notre Dame’s Prince Brooks recovered a fumble on a botched Hamden pitch, ending what was a promising opening drive for the Green Dragons. They reached Notre Dame’s 9-yard line and actually had the ball for most of the first half.
After punting on the ensuing drive, Notre Dame junior defensive end Kyle Cullen tipped a Billy Varney pass and intercepted it. It didn’t take long for the offense to take advantage, as Sal Esposito broke through the line on the next play for a 47-yard touchdown run.
On Notre Dame’s following possession, after blocking a Hamden punt, Lupoli connected with Drew Arciuolo for a 25-yard touchdown.
The Green Knights capped their impressive first half shortly after. Kobe Wiggins intercepted another Varney pass and returned it 85 yards for a score to give Notre Dame a 29-point lead in the first half.
“Controlling the game and moving the ball, I thought we did a good job of that,” said Hamden coach Todd Dowty, who noted his team was down seven starters. “But when you give up big plays like that, it’s tough to bounce back. It just got away from us there.”
Keon Simpson had 23 carries for 90 yards and the lone touchdown for Hamden (3-8). After opening the year with wins in three of its first four, Hamden lost its final seven.
As for Notre Dame, the Green Knights finished strong considering their very difficult schedule. Their six losses came to teams with a combined 52-13 record and five of those six teams reached the postseason. The only team that did not was Xavier, which finished ninth in Class LL. Notre Dame won three of its final four to close out the year.
“We’ve been playing well the last four or five weeks now,” Notre Dame coach Tom Marcucci said. “Our guys have stuck together. We played a very competitive schedule with real good teams and we played tough the whole time. I thought we ended it the right way for our seniors to go out. We’re a relatively young team and we have a lot to look forward to.”
Notre Dame-West Haven 14 15 14 0 0 — 43
Hamden 0 0 0 7 0 — 7
N—Christian Lupoli 43 run (Chris Stanio kick)
N—Sal Esposito 47 run (Stanio kick)
N—Drew Arciuolo 25 pass from Christian Lupoli (Stanio kick)
N—Kobe Wiggins 85 int ret ( Zach Cofrancesco run )
N—Cam Tucker 3 run (Stanio kick)
N—Nico Ragaini 23 pass from Blake Rice (Stanio kick)
H—Keon Simpson 2 run (Angelo DiMonaco kick)