SOUTH EUCLID, Ohio - Amidst a backdrop of relentless rain on Saturday afternoon, Notre Dame College showcased sheer determination, rallying with 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to edge past West Virginia State with a final score of 31-24. The victory added a silver lining to the cloudy skies, making this year's homecoming celebration all the more memorable.
The game started off with a bang as one-half of the Falcons' dynamic duo in the backfield, Krys Riley-Richardson put the first points on the board with a 4-yard touchdown run. However, the Yellow Jackets quickly fired back. Quarterback Donovan Riddick showcased his arm strength and precision by connecting with wide receiver Marqus Ray on a 50-yard touchdown pass and then found Juwan Bunch for another 39-yard touchdown pass.
The rain-soaked field didn’t deter the ground game. Idris Lawrence of the Falcons and Joel Felder of the Yellow Jackets went toe-to-toe with the opposing defenses, battling both the elements and the chippiness the gridiron brings. They raced through slick defenses, churning out a combined impressive total of 276 rushing yards. Their runs were a testament to both their individual talents and their offensive line's prowess.
"Hats off to the offensive line. It starts up front with the offensive line," Lawerence said postgame. "We had a hard practice all week and I keyed my good reads and tried to do what I can do after that once I see the hole and burst through."
Second half momentum shift
After each team traded field goals on their first drives to start the second half, West Virginia State took a strong grasp of the momentum on the game, separating themselves with a 59-yard run from Riddick with 3:37 in the third quarter.
However, as with any great game, defense had its shining moments as well. The turning point for the Falcons came in the crucial stages of the fourth quarter. Defensive back Jacalyn Morrison for the Falcons showcased sharp reflexes and anticipation, intercepting a pass from Riddick. This pivotal play provided Notre Dame College with the golden opportunity they needed. Capitalizing on the turnover, Lawrence navigated his way through the Yellow Jackets' defense, sealing the game with a game-winning touchdown off a four-yard rush, his second in the last eight minutes of the game .
With this win under their belt, Falcons Head Coach Garrett Mack felt a sense of growth with his team after back-to-back losses in September on the road at Glenville State, and at home to Fairmont State.
"I take to my guys week in and week out about growth. We've grew over those two losses that's no doubt about that. We're beat up on defense and we're playing bruised up and battered, other guys are stepping up and making plays when they gotta make plays and being resilient. That's the biggest thing. Everyone's putting into the team effort and buying into the culture. It's really all on these guys. Our coaches come to work everyday. Our players come to work everyday."
Next week the Falcons (4-2, 3-2 MEC) will have chance to stack another will, but the task won't be easy as they will travel to Charleston, West Virginia for a MEC matchup with the undefeated (5-0, 4-0) University of Charleston Golden Eagles.
As for the Yellow Jackets (4-2, 4-1), despite the tough loss, their strong start and overall performance indicate that they too will be a force to be reckoned with this season. They travel next Saturday to Maryland for a conference battle with the Frostberg State Unversity Bobcats.