MIDDLETOWN — The Notre Dame of West Haven football program has won more than a few games in its storied history with dominating efforts on defense and special teams.
The Green Knights went back to that familiar script to post a 21-6 Southern Connecticut Conference Tier I victory over host Xavier on Friday night.
“Special team turnovers are very important,” said Notre Dame senior receiver Zackary Hochmann. “We always stress to have three plus turnovers before the game, and I think it is crucial to get them. It is great to get them on special teams so it takes some pressure off.”
Hochmann had a pair of touchdown receptions and an impressive night of punting that was highlighted by a 51-yard boot that was downed inside the 5. He also had a 26-yard punt return in a game where the Green Knights capitalized on two special teams turnovers by Xavier.
“I thought we punted the ball pretty well and we limited our turnovers, thank goodness,” Notre Dame coach Joe DeCaprio said. “It is something we really worked on in the bye week and lets face it, our defense won the game.”
Jamar Dejesus keyed the defensive effort with 10 tackles and was a part of two stops behind the line of scrimmage.
Notre Dame (3-2) appeared to be stopped on its opening drive, but after a timeout by Xavier, the Falcons were called for a too many men on the field penalty with the Green Knights back to punt to extend the drive. Xavier’s defense did come up with the stop when a third-down pass was batted down at the line of scrimmage.
Xavier’s defense was back on the field after its offense failed to get a first down. One play after the Green Knights converted on 4th and inches, Jackson Zalinsky connected with Zackary Hochmann on the 22-yard scoring pass with 2:55 left in the first quarter.
Xavier failed to cover the ensuing kickoff to give the ball right back to Notre Dame. However, a fourth-down pass from Zalinsky to Robert Oliverio was just short of the first down.
Notre Dame had a better result on its next fourth-down play as Oliverio broke free down the middle of the field and was hit in stride by Zalinsky for a 29-yard scoring pass. Aidan Walsh’s second extra point of the game make it 14-0 with 7:07 remaining in the first half. The touchdown was set up when Notre Dame’s Thomas Candelora fell on a fumble on an attempted punt return.
Xavier did move the ball near midfield on the next possession but back to back defensive plays by Brandon Atkins forced a punt by the Falcons.
Zalinsky and Hochmann connected again for a 23-yard touchdown reception with Hochmann caught a pass near the Notre Dame sideline, made a couple of cuts and raced the final 15 yards for his second scoring reception of the game to make it 21-0 with 3:06 left in the third quarter.
Xavier (1-4) ended the shutout bid on a 38-yard scoring pass from Ryan Miner to Kareem Grisham on the final play of the game.
“Give them the credit because they took advantage of us making mistake after mistake after mistake,” Xavier coach Andy Guyon said. “It is very disheartening. They are getting better but you can’t make mistakes like that against anybody and they have a good offense, good players and you can’t give them a short field.”
NOTRE DAME 21, XAVIER 6
Notre Dame-WH 7 7 7 0–21
Xavier 0 0 0 6–6
ND — Zackary Hochmann 22 pass from Jackson Zalinsky (Aidan Walsh kick)
ND — Robert Oliverio 29 pass from Zalinsky (Walsh kick)
ND — Hochmann 23 pass from Zalinsky (Walsh kick)
X — Kareem Grisham 38 pass from Ryan Miner (no conversion attempt)
Records: ND 3-2; X 1-4