FAIRFIELD — The Notre Dame-West Haven and Fairfield Prep football teams entered their SCC Tier I matchup on Friday with identical 4-3 records and playoff hopes still alive.
A win and that hope would remain and the Jesuits had that thought on their minds.
When the Green Knights took an early lead off a kickoff return for a touchdown, it served as a wakeup call for the Jesuits in that quest to make the playoffs. After the first seven minutes of the game it was all Fairfield Prep.
Quarterback Champ Long threw for 147 yards and a touchdown and scored on a 38-yard run and Sean Nelson ran for 121 yards including a 3-yard touchdown run to lead Fairfield Prep to a 49-19 win over Notre Dame-West Haven at Rafferty Stadium.
“This win is the next step for us, its a big win when it comes to our ultimate goal of making the playoffs,” Fairfield Prep coach Keith Hellstern said. “We’re taking it one game at a time and we’re peaking right now. This was a huge win and the playoffs are a big deal for us.
“Tonight the kids turned up the intensity and did a better job on the offensive line and defensively we did what what we had to do to hold Notre Dame. We’re happy we won, but it’s just one game.”
It was a wild first quarter with 27 points scored, mostly by the Jesuits.
The Jesuits took their first possession and drove 71 yards on seven plays for the first score of the game. Dean Tsiranides capped the drive by bolting up the middle for a 12-yard touchdown run with 6:46 to go in the first quarter. James Urban’s kick failed for a 6-0 Prep lead.
The Green Knights wasted no time in answering and took a lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, Tom Candelora broke two tackles and outran everyone for an 85-yard kickoff return for a touchdown with 6:29 to go in the first quarter. Aidan Walsh’s kick gave Notre Dame a 7-6 lead.
“That touchdown they scored woke us up, it motivated us for the rest of the game,” Nelson said. “It got us going. We had a big week of practice and this is the kind of game we were looking for this week. Everyone contributed on both sides of the ball.”
The Jesuits came right back on their next possession to regain the lead. On the first play from scrimmage, Nelson ran for 51 yards to give the Jesuits a first down on the ND 23 yard line. Three plays later, Kyle Vaccarella scored on a 3-yard run with 3:25 to go in the first quarter and Urban’s kick gave the Jesuits a 13-7 lead.
The Jesuits were relentless on defense as well. On Notre Dame’s next possession, J.P. Irapoli intercepted Notre Dame quarterback Jackson Zalinsky to give the Jesuits possession on their own 49. Two plays later, Long threw a 48-yard touchdown pass to Max McGillicuddy and Urban’s kick made 20-7.
Prep (5-3) opened the second quarter with a 3-yard TD run by Nelson for a 27-7 lead and that would be the score at halftime.
It was more of the same in the third quarter. Sam Davenport padded the Fairfield Prep lead with a 3-yard touchdown run with 7:42 to go to make it 34-7 and Long scored oh a 38-yard TD run with 2:00 to go in the third quarter. Urban’s kick made it 41-7 Fairfield Prep.
The Green Knights trimmed the Prep lead to 41-13 with 7 seconds to go in the third quarter. Zalinsky connected with Robert Oliverio for a 35-yard touchdown pass. Patrick Schreck added a 1-yard touchdown run with 3:09 to go in the game for the Green Knights to make it 41-19 but the rally ended there.
The Green Knights (4-4) were limited to 100 total yards overall on offense. Zalinsky led Notre Dame with 49 yards passing and touchdown.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Fairfield Prep quarterback Champ Long. He scored on a 38-yard run and threw a 48-yard touchdown pass to Max McGillicuddy.
“This is a huge rivalry for us and it’s a big deal for us to come away with a win no matter what the records are or what is at stake.” —Fairfield Prep coach Keith Hellstern.