MOORPARK — Kicker Chris Sailer entered the state record book as Notre Dame High advanced to the Southern Section Division III semifinals with a 21-14 victory over Royal on Friday night at Moorpark College.
Sailer, among the nation's most-recruited kickers, booted field goals of 42 and 54 yards in the rain to give him 18 for the season, eclipsing the existing state record of 16.
More important, Notre Dame (11-1), with a tenacious-as-usual defense, forced a pair of key turnovers to rally from a 14-3 first-half deficit and advance to the semifinals for the second year in a row and the third time since 1989.
Notre Dame will play Serra, a 19-10 winner over Rowland, in the semifinals at a site to be determined.
"That was a gutsy, gutsy performance," Notre Dame Coach Kevin Rooney said to his players.
Notre Dame, which defeated Royal, 21-3, early in the season, trailed, 14-3, midway through the second quarter, but slammed the door on the Highlanders (8-4) thereafter.
Royal quarterback Wes Lagatta, who passed for 39 yards in the first half, was 0 for 6 in the second half and was stripped of the ball by linebacker David Dupetit in the final three minutes at the Notre Dame 31.
A more crucial turning point came midway through the second quarter, when defensive back Neil Schwary intercepted a Lagatta pass and raced 43 yards to the Royal 12. One play later, quarterback Ryan Bowne connected with tight end John Genova for a touchdown pass. A two-point conversion cut Royal's lead to 14-11.
Notre Dame took the lead for good late in the first half when Bowne connected with Robbie Brewster for a 19-yard touchdown-pass play and an 18-14 lead.
In a tug-of-war second half played on an increasingly muddy field, Sailer's 54-yard field goal provided all the scoring.
"The rain held the ball up a little bit tonight, but not much," said Sailer, who also missed a 49-yard attempt. "It feels great to get the record and get it out of the way. But the win is what's important."
Royal received a break on the game's opening kickoff, when Notre Dame's Corey Franzini mishandled a squib kick and Mike Weyandt recovered for the Highlanders at the 17-yard line. A four-play drive followed, with fullback Mike Reddington slamming two yards for a touchdown.
Notre Dame's offense struggled early, but the Kinghts penetrated to the Royal 19 late in the first quarter before the drive stalled. Sailer trotted out and booted a 42-yard field goal.
Royal marched 67 yards on its next drive to take a 14-3 lead. The drive stalled and Matt Pitstick's 29-yard field-goal attempt sailed wide right. But Notre Dame was whistled for roughing the kicker and Royal was awarded a first down at the six. Reddington, who had 110 yards in 18 carries, ran for the touchdown on the next play.