Notre Dame ends Antioch's undefeated season
Playing East Suburban Catholic Conference football helped prepare Notre Dame running back Ty Gavin and his teammates for situations like this.
So as they hustled to the sideline during a timeout late in the fourth quarter Saturday night, they couldn't have been more confident. Leading visiting Antioch by a touchdown, the Dons faced fourth-and-inches from their own 27 with 2:34 left.
"I thought I got (the first down) on third down. I thought it was a bad spot," Gavin said of his 3-yard gain when he needed 4. "But right when we came to the sideline, we just said, 'Let's go for it.' Our coaches were 100 percent in on it. I knew we were going to pick it up."
The Dons did. Taking a direct snap from Wildcat formation for the first time all night, Gavin picked up 5 yards. Notre Dame then ran out the clock, defeating Antioch 17-10 in a Class 6A state quarterfinal in Niles.
Sixth-seeded Notre Dame (10-2) advances to the state semifinals and will host top-seeded Cary-Grove (12-0).
The loss for No. 2 Antioch (11-1) was its first since an opening-round playoff defeat more than 12 months ago.
"They're a very good team," Gavin, who rushed 24 times for 109 yards and scored both of Notre Dame's touchdowns, said of the Sequoits. "Very good offense. Quarterback is going to be a (star). He's got a great arm and can sling the ball. They're super physical. But it doesn't help them when they're not playing the best (teams) every single week (as members of the Northern Lake County Conference). We've been through it. We play in the toughest conference in the state. We got four teams going to the semifinals (Marist, Nazareth and Joliet Catholic, as well), so it proves that."
Still, Notre Dame had a hard time ousting an Antioch team trying to reach the semifinals for just the second time in its history -- and that was despite the Sequoits rushing for just 18 yards. Antioch sophomore QB Athan Kaliakmanis, who was sacked three times for 27 yards (all in the first half), completed 16 of 25 passes for 183 yards.
Antioch, which averaged 45.5 points in its first 10 games, had been held to a season-low 17 points against Lakes last week.
"I really don't think it was anything special (the opposing defenses) were doing," said running back Ben Nauman, who scored the Sequoits' lone TD against Notre Dame on a pass from Kaliakmanis. "Not bashing them. Notre Dame and Lakes were both phenomenal. But it was really us. We were getting in our own heads and stopping ourselves. The first half it was penalties. The second half we were missing blocks, and we weren't catching as many balls."
Antioch scored on the game's opening drive, settling for Sebby Scofield's 25-yard field goal after Notre Dame sacked Kaliakmanis on third-and-goal from the 1.
Antioch's defense stopped the Dons on their opening series, but Nauman muffed the punt. The home team recovered at the Antioch 13, and the speedy Gavin scored on the next play.
"I got a little cocky," said Nauman, who was hit immediately after choosing not to call for a fair catch. "I've done that a lot this year, where I've let people get a little too close maybe on punt returns."
Then after the Sequoits went 3-and-out, Notre Dame drove 61 yards on 7 plays, with Gavin's 2-yard run making it 14-3 with 57 seconds left in the first quarter.
"I think we really hurt ourselves by not coming out fast and hitting them hard," said Antioch defensive end Chase Becker, who along with Jackson DeVaughn and Kevin Tamayo had sacks against Notre Dame sophomore Anthony Sayles (5-of-10 passing, 99 yards). "Once we woke up, we really locked down on them."
Antioch got within 14-10 when Kaliakmanis hit a wide-open Nauman for a 38-yard strike to cap a 6-play, 88-yard drive just two plays into the second quarter. But the Sequoits never got close to the end zone again until a fourth-quarter drive came up short when Kaliakmanis threw incomplete on fourth-and-3 from the Notre Dame 18.
The Dons had extended their led to 17-10 on a third-quarter field goal by Danny Simon from 23 yards out.
"Couldn't finish drives," Antioch coach Brian Glashagel said. "(Notre Dame) played some great defense."
Kaliakmanis targeted his brother Dino 10 times. Dino Kaliakmanis had 7 catches for 58 yards.
"We knew we were going to throw a ton," Glashagel said. "If you watch film on them, they're very good against the run."