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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Notre Dame Outnumbered but Just Barely Counted Out

October 31, 1998|ERIC SONDHEIMER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LA PUENTE — This is Southern Section Division I football: A roster of 85 players, 13 assistant coaches, a dance team with more members than your opponent has players, a running back tradition with the likes of Eric Bieniemy, Daylon McCutcheon and Rodney Sermons.

All that and more was the challenge supposedly outmanned Notre Dame High faced Friday night in taking on unbeaten Bishop Amat in its first Division I game since the late 1980s.

Except the Knights (7-1, 0-1) didn't blink. They put a scare in the Lancers (8-0, 1-0) before falling, 28-21, in a Del Rey League game before a sold-out crowd.

Yes, tailback Mike Wagner of Bishop Amat set a school record with 365 yards rushing in 35 carries. But Bishop Amat couldn't rest easily until a fourth-down pass by quarterback Seth Oseransky of Notre Dame fell incomplete with 1:46 left.

The Knights trailed, 7-0, at halftime and tied it on their opening possession of the second half when Darin Barton scored on a 10-yard run.

They couldn't stop Wagner in the second half, and fell behind, 28-7, with 8:49 left. Again, there was no quit in the Knights.

Oseransky fired an 11-yard touchdown pass to Todd Fenton the made the score 28-14 with 7:18 left. The Knights recovered an onside kick, and scored on Chris Leon's eight-yard run. That made the score 28-21 with 5:44 left.

What came back to frustrate Notre Dame were dropped passes, three missed field goals in the first half and the inability to chase down Wagner.

"They're a good team," said Joe McNab, Notre Dame's defensive coordinator. "We didn't tackle very well in the third quarter."

Notre Dame never wanted to be in the position of playing powerful Bishop Amat, ranked No. 3 in the state. This is only a one-year stint in Division I for the Knights.

Coach Kevin Rooney prepared his team for months. And they responded.

"We hurt ourselves but we battled to the end," Rooney said. "I learned if we just can do a few more things right, we're a team that can compete next week and the next week."

Next week is another imposing Division I foe: Loyola.

The Knights held highly regarded quarterback Chris Rix of Bishop Amat to one-of-10 passing for 21 yards. But their run defense broke down repeatedly in the second half trying to chase the speedy Wagner, who would start inside and break outside and run away from the defenders.

Chris Leon of Notre Dame rushed for 137 yards in 15 carries.

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