Notre Dame Prep High School beats Sunnyslope in football home opener


Jake Anderson

Coin toss

Jake Anderson, Reporter

The Notre Dame Prep Saints defeated the Sunnyslope Vikings 41-27, as high school football in the valley got underway.

“We were able to win because of perseverance,” said Notre Dame Prep head coach, George Prelock. “Everyone stuck together and we made big plays when we had to.”

Coming into the game, Sunnyslope was the only team to ever beat Notre Dame Prep on its new home turf, so history was on the side of the Vikings.

Other history appeared to be repeating itself when senior wide receiver David Haen’s one-handed touchdown catch from (his brother)— junior quarterback, Niko Haen, gave Sunnyslope a 7-0 lead with 7.2 seconds left in the first quarter.

On the ensuing kickoff, a squib kick to the Notre Dame Prep 20 yard-line was picked up by senior running back and wide receiver, Jake Smith, and returned 80 yards for a touchdown that tied the game at 7-7 as time expired in the first quarter.

Not only did Smith’s touchdown return affect Sunnyslope on the scoreboard, it also affected the Viking’s ability to kick the ball downfield, as many of its remaining kickoffs and punts went out of bounds, resulting in advantageous starting field positions for the Notre Dame Prep offense, which wasn’t able to cross midfield until the second quarter.

Midway through the second quarter, Sunnyslope had a 63-yard touchdown pass called back due to an ineligible man downfield. The penalty would prove to be costly, as the Vikings failed to score on the drive.

As halftime approached, senior quarterback Jake Farrell was able to connect with fellow teammate Jake Smith for an eight-yard touchdown pitch and catch on a slant route over the middle to give Notre Dame Prep a 13-7 lead with 10.8 seconds left in the first half.

A familiar play resulted when on the ensuing kickoff, Sunnyslope picked up a squib kick at its own 18 yard-line and returned it 82 yards for a touchdown that tied the game at 13-13 as time expired in the first half.

“We just need to get better,” said Prelock after the game. “We need to put two halves together. Last week it was the second half. This week we struggled in the first half, so I think it’s a matter of us still being young, but maintain our composure and put a full game together.”

Early in the third quarter, Sunnyslope senior running back, Xamoi Penn’s four-yard touchdown run gave the Vikings its first lead of the game at 20-13.

Shortly there after, Sunnyslope was able to capitalize on a Jake Farrell interception—his second turnover of the game and Notre Dame Prep’s third as a team—resulting in a 50-yard Xamoi Penn touchdown run on an option play that quarterback Niko Haen was able to pitch at the last possible second while getting wrapped up by the Notre Dame Prep defense to give the Sunnyslope a 27-13 lead.

From there on out, it was the Jake Smith “show,” as Notre Dame Prep scored 28 unanswered points, all scored by the Texas Longhorns commit.

On the ensuing drive, senior Smith took the ball up the middle for a 67-yard touchdown run that brought Notre Dame Prep within eight points of Sunnyslope at 27-19 late in the third quarter.

Weather proved to be a factor in the game, as the high temperature and humidity caused multiple players for both sides to cramp in the fourth quarter.

Notre Dame Prep was able to bring itself within two points of Sunnyslope at 27-25, as quarterback Jake Farrell was able to connect with four-star recruit, Jake Smith, on a fade route in the back corner of the end-zone for an 11-yard touchdown reception.

For the second time in the game, Sunnyslope cost themselves points as a 41-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Niko Haen to running back Xamoi Penn was negated due to an illegal block in the back, resulting in another scoreless drive for the Vikings.

Midway through the fourth quarter, senior quarterback Farrell hit senior Jake Smith in stride for a 56-yard touchdown to give Notre Dame Prep its first lead since the first half at 33-27 with 6:30 left to play in the game.

Following the third lead change of the game, the Notre Dame Prep defense forced its only turnover of the game, as senior wide receiver and defensive back, James Garrison, picked off Sunnyslope quarterback, Niko Haen’s pass intended for his brother, David Haen, at the Notre Dame Prep three yard-line with a little over four minutes left to play.

Smith put the game to bed on the ensuing play, as he broke off a 97-yard touchdown run that was followed by a Jake Farrell two-point conversion run to bring the game to its final scoreline of 41-27.

“We just take it a day at a time,” added Coach Prelock postgame. “It’s the same thing at practice. That’s been our motto since last year: one day at a time; one rep at a time; one practice at a time; one play at a time; one game at a time; and if we just focus on the task at hand, everything else we always say will fall in place.”

Notre Dame Prep will look to improve on its 2-0 record next week, as they take on the Gilbert Tigers on the road.

The Sunnyslope Vikings will try to get back to their winning ways in an away match up against the Cienega Bobcats in Vail.

Both games will take place on Friday, August 31st, with a 7 p.m. kick off.