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One of the most exciting matches of the weekend was a non-conference affair that pitted Notre Dame College against Indiana. With both teams likely headed for post-season action, the contest was a warm-up for both clubs. After a back-and-forth match that came down to the final play of the match, the Falcons beat the Hoosiers, 31-30.
“We wanted to get a high-quality match against a quality opponent that was going to pressure us on offense, so we could see where we measure up going into D1AA playoffs,” said Jason Fox, head coach at Notre Dame Falcons. “They’ve had a strong program for a number of years, so we were lucky enough to go up to their beautiful campus and play them.”
The Falcons came into the weekend’s match off the back of wins against teams like Navy and Davenport, while the Hoosiers’ record consisted of five convincing wins in the Big Ten Conference. Patience on offense and aggression on defense proved to be the combination Notre Dame College needed to get past the Hoosiers.
In the back line, Zack Forro punctured the Hoosiers’ defensive line with hard, direct runs all day, while Marcus Tupuola and Cory Graham used speed and evasive measures to set up the offense. Forro and Tupuola also scored tries. Flanker Cian Grendon picked up his team’s game-winning try after an offload from Tupuola late in the match.
Indiana tested the Falcon defense from the first whistle. The back line from Indiana proved to be difficult to wrangle and threatened the line with every possession. Early in the match, Indiana put in two tries to take the lead. The Falcons tightened up the defensive efforts to keep the scoreboard from ticking over in the Hoosiers’ favor. The Falcons’ defenders fired up from the defensive line and put runners down hard.
Wale Williams, Cullen Berelka and Andrew Guerra led the charge on defense and laid down the big hits all over the field. This set the stage for DIAA All-American Alec Janotka to make his presence felt at the breakdowns. Janotka created ten turnovers during the match and kept Indiana from making much progress.
This wasn’t some one-off schedule filler for the Falcons. Indiana was specifically chosen in a long line of top-tier opponents to challenge the NDC players.
“I want to play a good team every weekend,” Fox said. “Any time we can have the honor of playing against teams like Army, Navy, Davenport and Indiana and win, it’s a big deal.”
Notre Dame College has two matches remaining before playoffs, against West Virginia and Lindenwood-Belleville. The Falcons plan to take what’s left of the season one week at a time while continuing to prove with the hopes that the team will have some hardware at the end of the line.
Indiana faces Wisconsin next week in the final match of the Big Ten Conference schedule. Wisconsin sits just below Indiana on the league table with a 5-1-1 record.