Fremd schemed to shut down Notre Dame running back Chris James.
For the first half, the Vikings did just that, limiting the Division 1 prospect to 47 yards on 14 carries.
But James erupted for 195 yards and 3 touchdowns in the second half as Notre Dame knocked off Fremd 28-14 in the opening round of the Class 8A football playoffs in Palatine.
"Our kids played hard," Fremd coach Lou Sponsel said. "But they just did not play sound. Offensively we made some mistakes, and defensively we were sound in the first half -- we just didn't make plays."
Led by Ryan Tarallo, Nate Notaro, Stephen Walsh, John Magnani, Brandon Barwacz, Jeff Gill and Nick Breitzman, Fremd did a great job of keeping James from breaking free in the first half.
After both teams played to a scoreless tie in the first half, it didn't take James long to show why has 13 Division I offers, including from Iowa and Wisconsin.
On the fourth play from scrimmage, James hit the hole on the left side, then squirmed through the Fremd defense, eventually breaking free for a 56-yard touchdown run to put the Dons (7-3) up 7-0.
"We went to more of a power package in the second half," Notre Dame coach Mike Hennessey said. "We thought we could trap a little bit. The game came down to which line would play better, and ours did."
Fremd (6-4) showed why it's been a quality team all season.
The Vikings put together an eight-play, 75-yard drive. Garrett Groot, who rushed for 142 yards on 16 carries, ran the ball on 6 of those plays which brought the ball to the 3-yard line.
Cody Patenaude then scored to tie the game at 7-7 with 6:45 left in the third quarter.
But the game changed for the Vikings in the next 101 seconds.
Three plays after the kickoff, James broke off another run, this one from 68 yards out and into the end zone to put Notre Dame up 14-7.
Fremd fumbled the ensuing kickoff on its own 29.
The Dons then capitalized on one of the three Viking turnovers.
Notre Dame quarterback Ryan Greene (14-of-23, 149 yards) threw a quick screen Dan Dietz, who avoided a Fremd tackler to score and make it 21-7.
"They just found our weaknesses and attacked it," Walsh said. "We were missing tackles and diving at legs. He was just too shifty and too much of a load."
"We had guys there," Sponsel said. "We just didn't tackle."
James, who finished with 242 yards on 33 carries, scored early in the fourth quarter to put Notre Dame up 28-7 with 10:10 left to play.
Fremd refused to quit.
Led by Sam Beutler (6-of-21, 121 yards), the Vikings moved the ball to their own 49. From there, Groot caught a screen pass on the left side, broke a tackle, then cut back to the right to score as the Vikings closed to 28-14 with 8:48 left to play.
"We still had that hope," Groot said. "We never thought we were out of it."
After a defensive stop, Fremd had a chance to climb back into the game.
But a holding penalty negated a completed pass at the Notre Dame 10 and another dropped pass at the Dons' 2-yard line ended that threat.
"We knew we had to come together and play hard together," said Groot, who gained nearly 600 yards in the last 4 games. "We are a family and family comes together."
Beutler, who could have taken the easy route after he torn his ACL in his left knee, said he wanted to finish the season with his friends.
"It was a fun season," Beutler said. "I could not be more proud of the guys I played with. I couldn't ask for a better group around me. We came together this season and connected. That's why it is so hard to have it over."
Sponsel said that he felt for the 43 seniors on his team.
"I feel bad for the seniors," Sponsel said. "You have to keep in mind that they are high school kids and we are here to teach them. There is a bigger mission here. You feel bad for them because you would like to give them another week."