Prep Impressions: Nov. 18, 2016


RIVERSIDE (Calif.) — What’s a season without some adversity?

Riverside Notre Dame, which last year went the distance to win a CIF-Southern Section (now defunct) Northwest Division title, started this season as the top ranked team in Division 9.

The Titans ran roughshod over their first two opponents of 2016 until Week 2 against Santa Fe Springs St. Paul, when a fist fight turned into a brawl and the game was terminated. Coach Derrick Johnson’s team forfeited the game, and the next, and was suddenly 2-2 having played only eight full quarters of football.

Notre Dame returned to the field in Week 5 against Division 1 Rancho Santa Margarita Tesoro and surprised most observers with a 20-13 win. It ranks as one of the most unlikely results in all of CIF-SS this season.

They then claimed the Holy War shield with a 44-19 win over San Bernardino Aquinas in Week 6, limiting one of the Inland Area tops backs — Branden Rankins — to just 102 rushing yards and zero touchdowns.

Aside from a one-point loss at Ontario Christian in Week 8, Notre Dame has not lost on the field this season, and now the Titans are riding a four-game winning streak and headed into the D9 semifinals after defeating Agoura, 34-20, on Friday, Nov. 18, 2016.

“We’re very senior experienced so we feel hopefully that’ll carry over,” Johnson said.

He’s referring to a group led by QB Niles Harrell, RB Ian Zamudio, WR/DB Jared Baytosh and DT Dylan Petti, among others. All of whom will likely go on to play on Saturdays.

Harrell, a three-year starter, competed his first eight consecutive pass attempts before finishing 15 of 21 for 127 yards and two TDs against Agoura.

“I thought he threw the ball really well,” Johnson said. “We have to do some things better from a coaching standpoint to give him a few more opportunities to sling that rock more and expose some coverages, but I thought he did really well. I’m just really excited that he’s our captain, and he’s leading our football team.”

Zamudio missed the quarterfinals with what Johnson described as a “calf issue.”

“Ian will be back next week. He wanted to play tonight, and it was just like, ‘You know, let’s get you healthy,'” Johnson said. “We felt like we could possibly win this game without him. He’s got a calf issue but he’s expected to play next week.”

Baytosh, a four-year starter, had an interception and a touchdown reception, which about all you could ever want from a guy who plays both defensive back and receiver.

“He’s just doing everything right now, all over the place,” Johnson said.

Petti, an all-CIF player committed to Sacramento State, absolutely ravaged Agoura’s offensive line. He had two sacks and double-digit QB hurries. He was a man among boys out there.

“He’s one of the best linemen in this division, so we feel like we can get a matchup, and we just try to find the right spots for him, and figure out who on that opposing line we can get to disrupt and get into the backfield,” Johnson said. “He’s an exceptional defensive lineman, offensive tackle and they’re hard to find.”

However, the star of Notre Dame’s show vs. Agoura was junior RB Tyzjon Calhoun, who rushed for three TDs in place of Zamudio.

“The game plan was to run the ball, control the game. We felt like we were bigger up front, and we were able to run the rock tonight and that’s why we got the win,” Johnson said.

Johnson added that with both Zamudio and Calhoun on the field next week vs. No. 1 seed Cerritos Valley Christian, the Titans are as talented as ever.

“We’re a special team when we have those two together on the field at the same time,” Johnson said.

As for Valley Christian?

“They’re a lot like us. They’re big up front. This will be the biggest offensive line we’ve faced since Tesoro,” Johnson said. “They’re very explosive. Valley Christian is the No. 1 seed. They deserve the No. 1 seed, and they’re very physical up front and they have some fast guys, so they can run. We’re going to have to contain a lot of fast guys.”

If this season has been any indication, Notre Dame will shrug Valley Christian off an keep moving forward.

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