Notre Dame keeps playoff hopes alive

Notre Dame keeps playoff hopes alive

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Notre Dame keeps playoff hopes alive

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When fighting to earn a playoff berth, good teams find a way to crank it up a notch.

Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep did just that when it handed host Tempe McClintock a 42-7 Division II pasting on Friday night.

Notre Dame has won three in a row while keeping its hopes of a sixth straight postseason appearance within sight. A win next Friday at home over Phoenix Horizon, and it should be in.

Meanwhile, Notre Dame was firing on all cylinders Friday in jumping to a 42-0 lead at halftime.

After a three-and-out by Tempe McClintock to open the contest, Notre Dame senior quarterback Nicholas Duckworth lit up the scoreboard to the tune of four touchdown passes.

After senior running back Luke Taffuri plunged in from three yards out in the first minute-and-a-half of the game, Duckworth hooked up with senior wideout Maurice White from four yards, and then Taffuri from 50 yards away to open a 21-0 lead after the opening act.

Junior wideout Jordan Schlueter then raced in from 12 yards out with nine minutes left in the second quarter. Schlueter and Duckworth then hooked up again, this time for a 30-yard scoring strike with 2:09 left in the half.

With under a minute left in the half, senior tight end Grant Martinez hauled in a 25-yard pass from Duckworth for what would turn out being Notre Dame’s final points.

“We really got into a good rhythm early,” said Duckworth, who completed 9 of 12 passes for 216 yards. He also has 18 scoring strikes on the year.

“We’ve been improving every week. We established the pass early and did a great job of executing.”

Taffuri finished with 101 yards on eight carries, while Martinez was Duckworth’s favorite target on the night with five grabs for 74 yards and the score.

Tempe McClintock’s lone touchdown came at the 9:02 mark of the third quarter when senior tailback Sammy Jones outraced everyone for a 97-yard touchdown.

“We weren’t really all together at the start of the game, with senior night and all,” said Jones, who rushed for 152 yards on nine carries to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark for the season.

“We were beating ourselves. But then we came together a little in the second half and played much better.”

Notre Dame took advantage of the big lead by using a lot of its junior varsity players for most of the second half.

“It was a good opportunity to get some of the junior varsity players a taste of it (playing on varsity level),” first-year coach Gary Gregory said. “We’re always trying to build our program, and that’s how you try and build it.”

Junior linebacker Cristian Rodriguez recovered a second quarter fumble to set up a score, while special teams was point on as three of sophomore kicker Grayson Naquin’s six kickoffs also went for touchbacks.

And when Jones wasn’t running wild for Tempe McClintock, senior quarterback Xavier Gomez was busy completing 9 of 16 passes for 125 yards. He also ran 12 times for 50 yards.

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