— Mike C (@mikecfree) September 14, 2019
STRATFORD — When a high school football team opens its season with only 21 players wearing helmets, a lot — underline a lot — is expected from everyone on its roster. That might go double, if not triple, for that team’s quarterback.
For one game, Notre Dame-Fairfield’s John Fassett proved to be up for the task — on offense, defensive and even special teams. The senior quarterback threw a pair of touchdowns and ran for two more, helping Notre Dame to a 41-25 victory over Stratford at Penders Field Friday night.
“We’ve gone through so much adversity,” Fassett said. “We lost a lot of players before the season, transfers out. We’ve just been battling through it and it’s been great. These guys stuck together no matter what.”
The season-opening victory matched the Lancers’ win total from 2018, a fact not lost on coach John Johnson.
“These kids have been through a lot, but they believed in the coaching staff,” Johnson said. “They listened to us, they bought into our game plan. I told them, just leave it all out on the field and I’ll carry the biggest 350 pound lineman off the field over my shoulders — just learn to trust us.”
Due to the preseason roster reshuffling, the Lancers adjusted to a run-heavy approach Friday night. Stratford struggled to contain the three-pronged attack of Fassett, halfback Nathaniel Cole and fullback Jaidyn Cummings, who each ran for touchdowns.
— Mike C (@mikecfree) September 13, 2019
“They love the lineman,” Johnson said. “Those guys don’t get their name in the paper all the time, but we pounded the rock tonight. They kept saying, ‘Coach, feed us, feed us.’ ”
Aided by a short punt, Notre Dame needed less than a minute to go ahead 7-0 on Cole’s three-yard run. Stratford answered seconds later on freshman Tristan Pena’s 80-yard kickoff return.
A short scoring run by Fassett late in the first, followed by an 11-yard swing pass to Cole made it 20-7 before Stratford sophomore Sy’air James powered into the end zone to cut the Lancers’ lead midway through the first half.
Notre Dame asserted itself on the first drive of the second half, going 64 yards in over six minutes to go ahead 27-10. Fassett keep the drive alive with a 25-yard run on a fake punt near midfield. He later recovered a fumble in the red zone, which helped set up his six-yard touchdown pass to Daniel Finizio moments later.
“Big shout out to the O-line today,” Fassett said. “They were driving them down the field every play. It was a fantastic job.”
Stratford kept it interesting until the final moments, including a 48-yard touchdown run up the left sideline by sophomore quarterback Trey Lanham on a fourth down that pulled the Red Devils to 34-25 with four minutes left.
“The thing is, the kids showed they had a lot of fight in them, so it was good to see in the first game, with first-time starters, they didn’t put their heads down,” Stratford coach Jack Petion said. “We put ourselves in a bad situation and we we trying to climb out of a hole all game.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
John Fassett, ND-Fairfield — The senior quarterback did a little bit of everything, throwing and running for a pair of touchdowns.
“We’re looking for that one group that’s going to change things here at Notre Dame and these are the guys who are going to do it.” — ND-Fairfield coach John Johnson on trying to rebuild a program after a 1-9 finish in 2018.