Lawler's clutch kick lifts Benet over Notre Dame

 
By Stan Goff
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 9/30/2021 10:22 PM

When the opposing team called a timeout in an effort to freeze him at the end of Thursday's football game, Benet Academy kicker Michael Lawler still felt good about his chances to again boot the ball 27 yards through the uprights and break the 17-17 tie with visiting Notre Dame.

But when a back-to-back icing timeout was called by the Dons, the Redwings junior admittedly was starting to let his nerves get the best of him.

 

But there was no need for the Benet fans to worry as Lawler drilled the game-winner on his third effort as time expired to give his team a thrilling win and a 3-3 record.

"After the first one I really felt pretty good," Lawler said of his chances of repeating the winning kick when it actually counted. "But after the second timeout I did get a little nervous and didn't know if I could make the kick a third time. But I guess I could."

Lawler's winning kick came just over a minute after Dons kicker Ahmed Shinnick had connected on a 43-yard field goal to draw his team even at 17-17, setting the stage for yet another down-to-the-wire finish between these two programs.

With just 1:30 on the clock to work with, the Redwings quickly got within field goal range when Antonio Picciolini lobbed a 32-yard pass that Pierce Walsh hauled in between a pair of defenders at the Notre Dame 29-yard line. Three more completions and another first down followed, and a Picciolini 2-yard keeper put the ball at the 9-yard line with 2.5 seconds left. That's when the Dons tried unsuccessfully to ice Lawler -- who only took over the team's kicking duties after a teammate's injury -- twice.

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"I just wanted to find the ball, get my hands on it and come down with it so that Michael Lawler could come in and do his thing," said Walsh, who had seven catches for 102 yards including a 21-yard touchdown that tied the game at 14-14 in the third quarter.

Benet coach Pat New was not surprised to see yet another hard-fought, tight game with the Dons.

"It's a W and a W is beautiful," said New. "It's Benet-Notre Dame. We always play this type of game. For 20 years now we always play close games."

Dons coach Michael Hennessey agreed. He just wished his team could have taken advantage of a first-and-goal from the 4 in the third quarter. A holding penalty, a sack and a negative run play eventually led to a missed 36-yard field goal attempt and no points from a golden opportunity.

"It was a matter of we didn't take advantage of some of our opportunities, and they had the ball last," Hennessey said. "It was a great game, but a tough one to stomach."

The game was tied 7-7 at the half before Notre Dame (1-4) took a 14-7 lead in the third on a 19-yard touchdown run by Colin Randazzo, who finished with 121 yards on 20 carries.

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