BATAVIA — The past two seasons for the Notre Dame football team were a well-documented disappointment. The Fighting Irish struggled mightily in winning just two games and they weren’t overly competitive in a number of those losses.
But after a completely dominating home performance against visiting Geneseo Saturday afternoon, Notre Dame appears to be on the right track in 2018.
Junior running back Gabe Macdonald had another huge performance, while the Fighting Irish defense was impressive yet again as they manhandled the Blue Devils all day long for a 34-0 victory in LCAA/GR action.
“This is a fantastic feeling for the kids,” Notre Dame head coach Joe Zambito said. “To me, the best thing about coaching is to see the joy in the kids’ eyes.”
The win for Notre Dame moved it to 3-0 with the last two being shutouts as it has outscored its last two opponents 54-0.
“It feels good. We’ve been working really hard all year and it pays off when you look over at the scoreboard and you pitch a shutout two games in a row,” lineman Tyler Totten said. “I don’t think anyone really thought 3-0 after the last two seasons that we had but we’ve come a long way.”
Macdonald had well over 400 yards rushing in his first two games of the season and he was at it again against Geneseo as he rushed for 162 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries as the Fighting Irish controlled the clock all afternoon, rushing for 251 yards on just 36 carries.
Freshman Cody Henry added 58 yards and a score on just five carries and Jed Reese had an electrifying touchdown run in the first half and Notre Dame was never threatened from the opening kick.
“This was the most fun I’ve had all season,” Henry said. “It was a show out there. We came out and executed and it was just easy.”
Meanwhile, a week after controlling Cuba-Rushford for four quarters in Week 3, the Notre Dame defense was even more spectacular against the Blue Devils.
The Fighting Irish held Geneseo to 11 yards rushing on 34 carries and just 53 total yards of offense in all, they sacked sophomore quarterback Adam Wright eight times, forced three turnovers and allowed the Blue Devils just five first downs, with three coming via penalties.
Jayson Reinhart, Tyler Totten, Noah Kollarik, Mason Randall, Reese and Keith Szczepanski all had their hands in at last one sack, with Totten finishing with two as the Geneseo quarterback was running for his life the entire game.
“Our defensive line was able to cut through very easily,” Macdonald said.
“That helps a lot, we covered their wide receivers and just took away everything.”
With Geneseo coming off of a 76-point loss to Alexander the week before, the Fighting Irish started quick and made sure the Blue Devils had no designs on bouncing back.
After Henry stripped running back Nick Rivers for a turnover on Geneseo’s first possession, Macdonald ran the ball seven straight times and capped the drive with a two-yard score to put the Fighting Irish up 6-0 midway through the first quarter.
The two teams then traded punts before Notre Dame was right back at it on offense.
Following a poor punt, Macdonald broke off a 38-yard run — led by a punishing block from fullback Nick Engel — and one play later he plowed in from two yards out again for another score; a Tim Klotzbach two-point conversion to Zach Cocking made it 14-0 with over two minute left in the opening frame.
Another poor punt from the Blue Devils on their next possession would put the Fighting Irish in prime position to put the game out of reach early, and they did.
And the second play of the drive, Reese took a toss left and when it looked like he was going to lose yards, he simply used his speed to run right past the Geneseo defenders and down the sideline for a 27-yard touchdown to put Notre Dame up 22-0 after a Colin McCulley run on the conversion.
It would stay that way until the half as the Fighting Irish limited Geneseo to just two first downs and 25 total yards in the opening two quarters.
On Notre Dame’s second drive of the third quarter, it would continue to pile it on. On first down, Macdonald broke free for a 68-yard scamper that brought the ball all the way to the four-yard line after a horse-collar penalty. On the next play, Klotzbach kept the ball up the middle and appeared to clearly cross the goaline but it was ruled that he was stripped of the ball. No matter, lineman Donato Fiorentino picked it up and blasted his way in from the one for a 28-0 lead.
“They bit hard so we tried to run the counters as much as we could because they were open,” Macdonald said. “
The Fighting Irish would basically take their foot off of the gas from there — even punting from the Geneseo 25-yard line on fourth down.
Early in the second quarter, with Macdonald nursing a slight hip injury, Henry showed what he can do as he picked up all five of his carries on one drive and scored from five-yards out for the final score of the game midway through the fourth.
“It’s a team game. It’s all about emotion, it’s all about togetherness and these guys seem to have it,” Zambito said.
“They are growing closer and closer every week and we preach family, we preach one heartbeat and we have one heartbeat. They really came out and performed today, I was very happy for them.”
Notre Dame didn’t pass much as Spencer Misiti grabbed the only two catches on the day for the Fighting Irish for 27 yards.
Notre Dame will look to make it 4-0 next Saturday at Homecoming against Pembroke, while Geneseo — now outscored 124-14 in its last two games — will try to get back on track at Bolivar-Richburg.
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