ONT: Fighting Irish tame Thunder

In Welland, Ontario on Wednesday afternoon, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish were victorious in their home opener against Blessed Trinity Thunder as they won 35-4. As for, the team struggled to put points on the board and lost their starting quarterback early in the game.

The Fighting Irish began their dominance over the Thunder on the opening kickoff return as Kelvyn Brannigan went for 70 yards.  Minutes later, Brannigan would run a 60 yard touchdown to put the Fighting Irish up 14-0 over Thunder.

Thunder starting quarterback Noah Lane went down after being sacked on just the fourth play of the game and.  He did not return back to the game after sustaining an injury to his head.

“A split second after being sacked I felt a hard impact in the back of my head and from there on my head was just pulsing” said Lane, describing the injury.

Thomas Barker and Austin Whetton replaced Lane for the remainder of the game. The two had several good running and passing plays resulting in several first downs for the Thunder.

“When you have two new quarterbacks doing everything they possibly can, that’s all I can ask for as a coach,” said Head Coach Joe Pagnotta.

Lane is now listed day to day, saying he still has some pain and headaches. If he is unable to go for Week 2, Coach Pagnotta says a backup will be decided  during practice this week.

The first quarter ended with a Fighting Irish tackle in the end zone.  In the beginning of the second quarter,  a 25 yard field goal by Matt Lane to closed the gap on the Fighting Irish’s lead, still trailing 14-4.

However, the Fighting Irish was not deterred by the Thunder’s two straight scoring plays. In the fourth quarter, the Fighting Irish dominated and increased their lead with touchdown scores by Tyran Meredith, Jake O’Bireck and Joe Luchyshyn. The Irish never looked back as the team went on to defeat the Thunder.

“The physical play, and the play of our offensive and defensive lines was a positive” said Fighting Irish Head Coach Tim Bisci after the game.

Despite the win, Bisci said that the team needs to be more consistent.

“We moved the ball well at times but we would stall drives with missed blocks, dropped balls, and missed passes,” said Bisci.

The Fighting Irish Head Coach also noted that penalties were an issue for the team and they would like to clean that up.

“A lot of it is mental things,” explained Bisci.  “We had a late hit early in the game that negated a big play for our defense, and a couple other plays that did not need to happen.”

“We have to clean up that part of our game if we are to have success going forward.”

The Thunder’s Defensive Coordinator Mark Antonelli gave his postgame assessment.

“We fought hard the whole game,” assessed Antonelli.  “Defense was accountable for 21 points of the 35, 7 of which came in the last minute, another seven came off of a big play on a defensive breakdown.”

“We were sound against the pass for the most part and at one point forced ND to punt on eight straight possessions.”

Antonelli also added that the defense had problems executing their game plan.

“We just struggled with mental breakdowns,” said the Thunder’s Defensive Coordinator.  “We had a couple of defensive assignments blown on coverage, and our weak side ends were allowing their offensive tackles to release, not giving our will linebackers much of a chance to shut down the weak side run.”

“We had opportunities to commit turnovers and failed to capitalize.”

Heading into Week 2, the Thunder will play the defending Niagara Regional and Golden Horseshoe Champion Lakeshore Gators. What will it take for the Thunder to win?

“Defensively, we just need to be sound and stick to our assignments, trust the system and not play scared,” said Antonelli.   “We have the ability to wear them down.”

“They play us on a short week of rest.  If we can force them into second and long by shutting down their run game, we can put ourselves in a favorable position.”

As for Pagnotta, facing the defending Golden Horseshoe champions will not be an easy task but will have the Thunder ready to challenge their opposition on the field.

“Lakeshore will be a very polished and well coached team and tough opponent,” said Pagnotta.  “Execution will be the name of the game.”

The Fighting Irish heads into Week 2 with confidence from their home opening win; set to play St.Paul who will be on short rest.

Bisci says the team will have to be more consistent throughout the game, and do the little things right.

“It will be a learning curve and the quicker we can get over it the more success we will have,” said Bisci.

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