Notre Dame Has No Problems

Notre Dame fires on all cylinders, dominating on both sides of the ball to win convincingly and advance in the 2008 Pac-5 playoffs...

Coming into the 2008 season, it's safe to assume that Notre Dame fans adopted a somewhat more cautiously optimistic outlook than in previous years. The critics warned that the expectations for the Knights should be curtailed given the circumstances: only nine starters were set to return from the previous year, and of those, only three were on the offensive side of the ball. Among the notable names missing from last year's squad include US Army All-Americans Dayne Crist (Notre Dame) and Wes Horton (USC), and Crist's current college teammate Anthony McDonald. Yes, expectations outside of the Notre Dame program were certainly down compared to previous years, but apparently, this season's crop of Knights didn't get that message.

Heading into their first round playoff game against the Compton Tarbabes, the Knights entered Friday night's contest at a perfect 10-0, and featured one of the state's most impressive offensive attacks. Leading the charge for the Knights has been junior quarterback Ryan Kasdorf. Kasdorf has had a remarkable season, to say the least. Having amassed close to 3000 yards this season while throwing for 32 touchdowns to only 5 interceptions, Kasdorf has loudly established himself as one of the top quarterbacks in the state. His partner in crime throughout his air raid of opposing secondaries has been senior wide receiver James Flynn (16 touchdown receptions). It's certainly a mystery as to why Flynn hasn't received as much recruiting attention as a player of his caliber is due. While some might dismiss his size or say that his numbers are inflated in Notre Dame's stellar offensive attack, Flynn has proven himself to be Notre Dame's premiere big play threat on offense.

Friday night proved to be more of the same for the duo of Kasdorf and Flynn, as the Compton secondary had no answer to the Knights' offensive onslaught. The first quarter started well enough for Compton as their defense was able to hold Notre Dame scoreless. The gameplan was evident for Compton head coach Calvin Bryant: rely on his offense's run oriented attack to control possession of the ball and keep Notre Dame's offense off the field. For the first few series, the plan seemed to work. Compton's offense, while unable to get any points on the board, managed to drive down the field and use the clock. On defense, the Tarababes held strong, even forcing Kasdorf to make a rare error. On Notre Dame's second offensive drive of the game, Kasdorf tested the Compton secondary, sending a bomb to his left, intended for Flynn on a fly route. However, Kasdorf, maybe showing too much confidence in his arm, threw up a floating pass into good coverage, and with that, Compton DB/QB Jerry Maluia was able to pick off the pass.

The ensuing Compton drive proved to be a critical possession as it set the tone for the rest of the game. On 2nd and 7 at the Knights' 44-yard line, Curry Williams took the ball for what would have been close to a 1st down for the Tarababes. However, a holding penalty on Compton pushed the offense back, resetting second down, and allowed an opportunity for the Notre Dame pass rush to pin their ears back and look to get into the backfield. A heavy pass rush met Jerry Maluia in the backfield, sacking him and forcing a fumble. Tom Drachkovitch, one member of the Knighs' vaunted linebacker unit, recovered to give the ball back to his offense at the Compton 30-yard line.

The Knights' first play after recovering, a quarterback keeper to Kasdorf's left, was called back on a holding penalty, and with that, the first quarter came to an end. After switching sides, Kasdorf made quick work, dropping back and throwing a bomb to his left, catching his favorite target Flynn in stride for a 40-yard touchdown strike.

As the Knights always seem to do after a big play, they let open the floodgates from thereon, and the Tarababes had no answer on either side of the ball. After stopping Compton on a fourth down attempt at the Notre Dame 36-yard line, the Knights offense took possession for what would be another scoring drive. After two running plays by Kenny Boggs gave Notre Dame a 2nd and 11 situation at their own 47-yard line, the Kasdorf-Flynn connection went to work again. For the night, Kasdorf's offensive line did a stellar job giving their quarterback enough time to throw, and on no other play was that more evident than on this. Dropping back, Kasdorf had enough time to scan the field and let the plays develop. Finally, after a perfectly executed pump fake to freeze the secondary, Kasdorf delivered another beautiful bomb to Flynn for a huge 53-yard strike to make the score 14-0 with 6:13 remaining in the first half.

After forcing a three and out for Compton, Notre Dame's offense again retained possession with excellent field position. On 1st and 10 at the 45, junior wide receiver Tyler Thomas took the end around, cut back against the grain, and took the ball all the way down to the 1-yard line before being taken down from behind. On the next play, Boggs took it in easily up the gut to make the score 21-0, after the extra point.

While Compton's defense had its hands full with Kasdorf and company, the Tarababes offense did not fair much better. Compton's run-heavy attack proved to be ineffective as the Knights' defense, with a commanding lead, focused on stacking the box and stopping the run. Leading the way for the Notre Dame defense were the linebackers, Drachkovitch, Ace Ward, and Jordan Barrett. This solid trio were impressive in pursuit, but were most impressive in how much disruption they were able to cause in the backfield. Compton's next offensive drive, following Boggs' score, proved to be fruitless, turning it over on downs at the Notre Dame 14-yard line.

The next offensive drive really struck the final nail in the coffin. After getting to their own 28-yard line, Kasdorf, again, threw a deep pass to Flynn who took it in for the long touchdown strike. The Compton sidelines were noticeably dejected by the ease at which Notre Dame was able to drive down the field. The touchdown ended the first half with the score at 28-0, Notre Dame.

It was much of the same in the second half. Kasdorf threw another touchdown pass to Thomas at the 4:51 mark, which was then followed up by a Boggs touchdown run to push the score to 42-0 in the third quarter.

The Compton offense tried to go to the air more often in the second half, but constant quarterback pressure made moving the ball downfield difficult. Eventually, for the Knights, their starters begin to trickle out and their youngsters got some playing time in a playoff game.

Notre Dame had a chance to add another score with the game coming to a close. After bringing it to the 1-yard line with but a few seconds remaining, head coach Kevin Rooney, instead, elected to do the classy thing and take a loss.

In winning 42-0, the Notre Dame Knights advance in the playoffs and are set to take on Orange Lutheran (9-2) next Friday. Compton's season ends with their record at 7 wins and 3 losses.


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