VAN NUYS — "C'mon guys," a Notre Dame High cheerleader implored the crowd at Birmingham High. "The defense needs your help."
Moral support would have been nice, but what the Knights really could have used were a few more players.
Eleven just wasn't enough to fill all the holes Moreno Valley Canyon Springs found in its 27-7 victory in a Southern Section Division IV semifinal on Friday night.
Notre Dame players said Canyon Springs was the fastest team they faced all year.
"They hit a hole and they were gone," Notre Dame linebacker Lei Malieitulua said. "You'd see them for a second and they were by you."
The quickest of them all was junior Bryan Howard, the defending state 100-meter champion. Howard gained a team-high 120 yards in 13 carries.
Darrell Franklin gained 63 yards and Marcelle Williams gained 60. Quarterback Ryan Roques ran for 47 yards and scored two touchdowns.
Canyon Springs (12-1), the top-ranked team in the division, outgained Notre Dame, 300-108, with all of its yards coming on the ground.
"They outplayed us," Malieitulua said. "They did everything right to win the game. They kicked our butts."
Notre Dame (10-3) was doomed from the start.
After three plays, the Knights were forced to punt. Howard came untouched around the left side of the Notre Dame line and blocked Chris Sailer's kick. Andre Pepper picked up the ball at the Notre Dame 15 and scored easily, giving Canyon Springs a 7-0 lead 2 1/2 minutes into the game.
"(The Notre Dame player) turned around to block me, but I was already by him," Howard said. "That's what started it, right there."
After stuffing the Knights on three more plays, the Cougars took over at their 39.
They drove 61 yards for another score, a one-yard run by Roques with 2 minutes 32 seconds to play in the first quarter.
The Knights could not take advantage of the one break the Cougars gave them in the first half.
Roques fumbled a punt that was recovered by Notre Dame's David Dupetit at the Canyon Springs 14. But the Knights were kept off the board when quarterback Jabbar Craigwell was sacked for an eight-yard loss on fourth and three from the seven.
Canyon Springs then drove 86 yards, facing only one third down. The Cougars scored on a 20-yard bootleg by Roques.
Craigwell, who completed two of 11 passes for 70 yards, was sacked five times for a loss of 20 yards.
The Knights' only score in the first half was a one-yard run by Craigwell with 48 seconds to play in the second quarter.
The key plays on that drive were a 59-yard pass to Joey Orlando and an 11-yard pass to Orlando on fourth and five.
Notre Dame, which has relied on a strong running game all season, could muster only 31 yards on the ground in the first half, compared with 159 for Canyon Springs. Notre Dame finished with 38 rushing yards.
Malieitulua led Notre Dame with only 25 rushing yards.
The Knights' chances to come back in the second half were stopped as much by Canyon Springs' offense as by the Cougars' defense.
Canyon Springs ate up most of the second half with long, time-consuming drives, one ending in a five-yard touchdown run by Howard.
The Knights had only 12 offensive snaps after the intermission. They did not pick up a first down.
Notre Dame had just three first downs in the game. Canyon Springs had 16.
"I expected it to be a little tougher than this," Howard said. "I guess we just played a good game."