SHERMAN OAKS — Just enough defense and more than enough of Chris Sailer's kicking lifted Notre Dame High to a hard-fought, 22-17 victory over Santa Barbara Friday night in the opening round of the Southern Section Division III playoffs.
The Knights (10-1) checked Santa Barbara's second-half surges, while Sailer, one of Southern California's most highly recruited kickers, booted three field goals, including one from 52 yards in the second quarter that cleared the crossbar with distance to spare.
In all, a typical performance by Notre Dame, which has relied all season on its defense and Sailer, who kicked four field goals last week against Chaminade.
"We don't have all the talent in the world on defense, but we pursue and we hustle," Notre Dame linebacker David Dupetit said. "They were hard to hold against the run."
Notre Dame, which will play Royal next week, took a 22-10 lead in the opening minute of the third quarter. Steve Lee returned the second-half kickoff to the Santa Barbara one-yard line and tailback John Garcia bolted in for a touchdown on the next play.
Santa Barbara (6-4-1) cut the gap to 22-17 early in the fourth quarter on a 13-yard touchdown pass from Nunez to Alvaro De La Rosa.
"I was surprised at how they were able to move the ball on us," Notre Dame Coach Kevin Rooney. "But our defense has been doing it all year and they came through again."
Notre Dame outgained Santa Barbara, 244 yards to 210. Junior quarterback Ryan Bowne, who completed 10 of 26 passes for 128 yards, opened the scoring with a one-yard sneak on fourth down to culminate the Knights' opening drive.
Santa Barbara countered with a 67-yard march to tie the score late in the first quarter. Fullback Kevin Morelos, who rushed for 45 yards on the drive, slammed in from two yards for the touchdown and Cesar Abrego added the conversion.
Sailer and Abrego traded field goals early in the second quarter. Sailer connected from 32 yards to give Notre Dame a 10-7 lead. Abrego followed with a 21-yard kick to pull Santa Barbara even.
Sailer's leg provided the remaining scoring of the half. He converted tries from 37 and 52 yards in the final three minutes.