Scottsdale Notre Dame’s football team is following the same road as last season but it didn’t have to endure an hour lightning delay and a fourth-quarter hail storm to keep its Division II playoff hopes alive.
With only lightning to slow it down, Notre Dame tacked on two more field goals in the second half and beat host Cave Creek Cactus Shadows 34-6 Thursday night.
Like last year, when Notre Dame faced long odds of making the playoffs with a 2-4 mark, the team evened its record at 4-4 with two regular-season game remaining. It was No. 19 in the new power ratings. The top 16 teams advance to state.
“Same deal,” said running back/linebacker Luke Taffuri, who had more than 100 rushing yards in the first half when Nick Duckworth threw three touchdowns passes and Notre Dame built a 28-0 lead. “We have to win out to have a solid chance at making the playoffs.
“A lot of the guys have been there before so we know what it takes.”
Last year, Notre Dame did just that, pulled a first-round upset of Tucson Salpointe Catholic on the road, before its season ended in the quarterfinals.
For Cactus Shadows (2-6), it still has a chance to see senior quarterback Bryce Kinsler become the state’s all-time leading passer. He needed 472 yards to get to No. 1 all-time, and 266 to break former Cactus Shadows star Phillip Aholt’s Division II record.
Kinsler finished with 189 passing yards and gave his team its only points late on a 15-yard run.
Lightning delayed the game for more than an hour after Taffuri rambled 51 yards to the Cactus Shadows 39 with 6:59 left in the second quarter and Notre Dame leading 21-0.
Notre Dame had little difficulty moving the ball. It took the opening kickoff, moved quickly and efficiently, as Duckworth hit Jordan Schlueter for an 11-yard touchdown.
After Michael Cole increased the lead to 14-0 with a 3-yard run, Notre Dame capitalized on a fumble.
Quarterback Nick Duckworth found wide-open Bailey Jones down the middle of the field for 31-yard touchdown and a 21-0 Notre Dame lead on the first play of the second quarter.
Kinsler passed for a state-record 639 yards in a 63-49 loss at Prescott. But since then Cactus Shadows has scored just 22 points in three games and Kinsler has passed for 551 yards.