BRIDGEPORT >> It’s a case of unfinished business for Notre Dame-West Haven.
After falling in the Class L-Small Division state final last season, the Green Knights would like to take that final step this season. But they have a couple of games to get through first.
Notre Dame handled the first game in dominating fashion as the seventh-seeded Green Knights shut out No. 2 Harding 34-0 at Kennedy Stadium.
“I think if we play our best, we can contend with any team in the playoffs and hopefully we will be able to finish off what we left off with last year,” Notre Dame quarterback Christian Lupoli said.
Notre Dame (9-2) will play at No. 6 New Canaan in the semifinals Monday at 6:30 p.m. The Rams won at No. 3 Windsor, the team that beat Notre Dame in the final last season.
Lupoli scored the first three touchdowns for Notre Dame on runs of 2, 6 and 4 yards to put the Green Knights up 21-0 and the Presidents in a deep hole.
“They have very good players and a high-powered offense. Our defense is very good though,” Notre Dame coach Tom Marcucci said.
Harding (10-1) just completed its first season in the Constitution State Conference. Quarterback Taisun Phommachanh threw for over 2,000 yards and 30 touchdowns, but didn’t complete his first pass Tuesday until the second quarter.
By then, Lupoli already had 66 yards rushing and those three touchdowns. Turnovers on the Presidents’ first two possessions led to the first two Green Knights scores.
Kobe Wiggins recovered Phommachanh’s fumble on the third play from scrimmage. Lupoli scored four plays later, which was set up by his 22-yard scramble on the previous play.
Joshua Wikowsky intercepted Phommachanh on the Presidents’ next possession and returned it to Harding’s 4-yard line. He scored on the next play to make it 14-0.
“We thought we would match up favorably against them and we had a couple of bad breaks early,” Harding coach Eddie Santiago said. “We tried to do some things to catch up and it put us deep in the hole again and we never really recovered.”
Then Harding went for it on 4th-and-4 from its 39 on its next possession. Phommachanh (5 of 14, 38 yards) was stopped well short of the first-down marker. Lupoli scored five plays later.
“We got some early turnovers that led to some points and got rolling from there,” Lupoli said.
Nico Ragaini scored the next two touchdowns for Notre Dame, the first on an end around for 75 yards in the second quarter after Harding’s deepest penetration of the game ended on a fourth-down incompletion.
Then Ragaini capped a 13-play drive, 11 of them rushes, with a 6-yard sweep late in the third quarter. That put the Green Knights up 34-0.
“You have to keep focus and can’t let a team like that, which has so many playmakers, back in,” Lupoli said. “You have to keep your foot on the pedal and I think we did a really good job of that in the second half.”
Notre Dame-West Haven 34, Harding 0
Notre Dame-WH 21 6 7 0 — 34
Harding 0 0 0 0 — 0
N—Christian Lupoli 2 run (Jared Gallbronner kick)
N—Christian Lupoli 6 run (Gallbronner kick)
N—Christian Lupoli 4 run (Gallbronner kick)
N—Nico Ragaini 75 run (kick failed)
N—Nico Ragaini 6 run (Gallbronner kick)
Team records: Harding 10-1; Notre Dame-West Haven 9-2