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Fourth Quarter Dooms Redwings

September 18, 2010
By Site Administrator of Benet Academy Football

Notre Dame returns blocked punt for TD late

September 18, 2010 

NILES - Benet Academy football fans will look back at Friday night's 35-31 loss to Niles Notre Dame and wonder, "What on earth happened?"

Notre Dame fans will probably be thinking the same thing.

Benet's Connor Nelligan caught six passes for 154 yards and two scores, but it wasn't enough to stop Notre Dame in a weird and wacky fourth quarter.

Nelligan started the final frame with a screen pass from quarterback Nick Mankowski (11 of 20, 180 yards, two touchdowns), which he raced 56 yards to give the Redwings a 25-14 advantage with 11 minutes, 30 seconds to play.

Notre Dame followed with an 11-play, 70-yard march that was highlighted by Jack McAndrew's acrobatic, one-handed snag in the end zone for a 32-yard score. The Dons failed on a two-point conversion which left Benet leading 25-20.

Benet took over first-and-10 at its own 37 but mustered only three yards on three plays with Mankowski severely spraining an ankle on a quarterback keeper on third-and-long.

Then, the drama began.

The Dons' Conner Gavin returned a blocked punt 40 yards for a touchdown with 3:44 remaining to give the Dons an unlikely lead.

On the next series, Benet quarterback TJ Rickert, the starter last year, was promptly intercepted on his first pass attempt (after coming in for Mankowski) to all but seal it for Notre Dame.

But there was plenty of football left.

The Dons managed to run the ball three straight plays for no yardage. With the ball at the Benet 21-yard line, a punt was out of the question and a field goal was too risky.

So, Dons quarterback Tim Whalen (18-29, 135 yards, three TDs, one interception) decided to chuck the ball into the end zone thinking an interception wasn't too bad if Benet did such. A turnover on downs wasn't bad either.

Instead, teammate Tom Hughes made a miracle catch to give Notre Dame a 35-25 lead inside of a minute.

The game was far from over.

Benet, under Rickert, promptly drove 70 yards in eight plays in 66 seconds.

Rickert hit EJ Howe from three yards out to make the score 35-31.

With 8.6 seconds left, there was more drama.

The Redwings recovered the onside kick - only to be flagged for illegal touching to give Notre Dame possession.

A kneel-down by Whalen and the game - all 188 minutes, 54 second-half points, five blown extra points, six touchdowns of 25-plus yards - was finally complete.

Benet coach Pat New put it mildly when addressing his team after the game: "That's tough."

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