The injury bug took another bite out of Notre Dame’s varsity football team tonight in an 8-6 loss to Clyde-Savannah at Van Detta Stadium.
Already without starting quarterback Colin McCulley, Head Coach Joe Zambito was forced to make more changes on both sides of the ball when lineman Dalton Hamm suffered an ankle injury in the first half, and standout halfback and linebacker Dylan Warner departed with four minutes left in the third quarter after taking a hit to the helmet.
Despite the setbacks, the Fighting Irish kept the Eagles at bay except for one big play – a 69-yard catch-and-run from QB Steven Dunn to Logan Massey on the second play of the fourth quarter that put C-S on top, 8-0.
The visitors had taken a 2-0 halftime lead when they recorded a safety in the second quarter by tackling ND punter Cody Henry in the end zone after the snap sailed over his head.
Notre Dame rallied, however, on a 10-yard scamper by Alonzo Storey, who was forced into action as a running back, with 5:43 remaining in the game.
The Irish’s attempt to tie the game failed when wide receiver Anthony Zambito was unable to corral a pass from sophomore quarterback James Fanara, who started the season with the junior varsity team.
Coach Zambito noted that his squad had several opportunities to even their record at 2-2.
“A dropped pass here, a dropped pass there, a missed block here. It wasn’t one particular play that cost us the game, it was a combination of a bunch of plays that did it,” he said. “It’s tough to play a team as good as they are as banged up as we are,” Zambito said. “I’ve got six starters on the bench on both sides of the ball, but take nothing away from Clyde because they played a heck of a game tonight.”
Notre Dame’s defense, except for the long TD pass, stepped up time after time to stay within striking distance.
“I thought our defense was phenomenal tonight. I wouldn’t be surprised if we outgained them,” Zambito continued. “The one play they got us on, I had my third-string corner in, who did the best job he could because at the time we were juggling people in and out of position because our linebacker (Warner) got pulled out of the game for concussion protocol.”
The athletic trainer’s decision to keep Warner out of the game didn’t sit well with Zambito.
“Believe me, I’m all about safety, and I know Dylan, and his dad was also on the sidelines as he’s a coach,” Zambito said. “Dylan was fine but wasn’t allowed to go back into the game. That’s just part of it. That happens, I guess, but that was big.”
With Warner out, Storey came through with several key plays – putting the Irish deep into C-S territory in the closing minutes.
“He’s our third receiver and he turned into our first-string back. In the game of football that happens,” Zambito said.
Following Storey’s touchdown, the ND defense stymied the Eagles, now 2-2, on three straight plays – with linebackers Vin DiRisio and Hayden Groff and lineman Eric Ricks Jr. recording the tackles. As a result, C-S was forced to punt from its own 12.
Storey fielded the punt inside of midfield and darted about 30 yards to bring the ball back to the Eagles’ 16 with three minutes left.
Fanara fired a pass on first down that fell incomplete, intended for tight end Groff. Storey ran for three yards on second down before Fanara misfired on a third-down pass intended for freshman Ryan Fitzpatrick.
After ND took its final time out, Fanara attempted to hit Storey in the right corner of the end zone but the pass was just out of the reach of a diving Storey. The Eagles ran one play before running out the clock on a couple of “kneel-downs” by Dunn.
Statistically, the Irish outgained C-S, 210-151, with Storey picking up 40 yards on 10 carries, Warner gaining 51 yards on 14 carries and DiRisio running for 15 yards on his lone carry.
Fanara ran seven times for 70 yards and completed three of 16 passes for 34 yards, with his receivers dropping four passes.
On defense, junior DiRisio had eight tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery while linebacker Henry had 10 tackles and a sack.
Zambito said he was encouraged as the Irish bounced back after a 37-6 loss to Avon last week, but frustrated over losing so many players to injury.
“Last season, we were lucky; we didn’t have a lot of injuries,” he said, talking about the club that won the Section V Class D title. “This season, it’s like dominos. They’re falling left and right.”
Photo at top, ND quarterback James Fanara bursts up the middle for 37 yards; photo at bottom, fullback Vin DiRisio on a 15-yard run. Photos by Howard Owens.