In a regular season contest between the East Tartans and the Notre Dame Titans the fans left the stadium still wishing for more. In a rematch of last year’s East 20-3 victory, this year it was full of non-stop excitement. Notre Dame came away 42-22 winners.
High powered offenses and big scoring plays took the showcase as both teams showed off big gains and and milestones being reached.
East’s starting running back, Justin Crager, who came into the game with 1,998 yards, needed only two yards to reach the 2,000 rushing yard milestone.
“Anybody that ever rushes over 2,000 yards in a season you’re good, you’re a good player,” East coach Todd Gilliland said.
On the second play from scrimmage Crager ran the ball up the middle for three yards, putting him over the milestone in what was a great individual season.
Crager, who finished the game with 309 yards on 43 carries and three touchdowns, accounted for 90 percent of the Tartans offense. Crager’s 2,307 yards rushing in 2012 puts him among the most productive players in school history.
“Justin is a great talent,” Gilliland said.
However, after East fumbled the ball shortly after, Notre Dame showed off their powerful offense.
It took the Titans only two plays from scrimmage on their first possession as Michael Mader found a wide open Will Toleman for a 43-yard touchdown pass, giving Notre Dame a quick 7-0 lead.
“We’ve made some big plays and lived on them all year long and tonight we did a good job,” Notre Dame coach Bob Ashley said.
After the Titans forced a three-and-out, the Kevin Lewis caught the punt from Crager and weaved his way around tacklers and busted it outside for a 77-yard punt return. The special teams score gave Notre Dame a 14-0 lead with 6:32 left in the first quarter.
“Kevin has some great athletic ability,” Ashley said.
The excitement wasn’t over, as the man who reached 2,000 yards earlier in the game answered with his own big play.
On the ensuing drive, Crager took the hand off right up the middle, breaking several tackles and won the foot race to the end zone for a 66-yard touchdown run that cut the Titans lead to 14-7 with 6:13 left in the first quarter.
“I’m proud of my kids, they didn’t quit and it was the best effort I seen out of them all year and thank my seniors and everyone for all they have done for us,” Gilliland said.
Crager accounted for 25 carries and 177 yards and one touchdown alone in the first half.
“Hats off to Crager he is a tough kid and a tough runner and it took everything we had to stop him,” Ashley said.
After both teams exchanged possessions, Notre Dame went right back to work on the offensive end. After 3-of-4 plays and three first downs, running back Jacob Milani punched the ball in the end zone from the one-yard line for the score.
The score put the Titans up 21-7 with 11:16 left in the half.
Down two scores, Crager did not lay down. The Tartans put together a 13-play drive as Crager was responsible for 10 of those 13 plays for 49 yards. However, what seemed to be a touchdown for Crager was called a yard short as the Tartans failed to score.
The Titans took advantage as Dakota Smith broke free for a 78-yard run for the fourth score of the game and putting Notre Dame up 28-7 with 2:41 left in the half.
After East failed to score before the half, the Titans went into halftime leading 28-7.
Crager, who already had an impressive first half, bettered himself in the second. Trailing by three scores Crager took the weight on his shoulders.
“Justin meant a lot to this program he’s just a good solid player and a great leader on a young team,” Gilliland said.
After the Tartans forced a fumble, Crager took over. With just over five minutes left in the third quarter, Crager scored on a 13-yard run, cutting the lead in half to 28-14 and it was his second score of the night.
After the Tartans defense prevailed once again, Crager quickly got the ball back in his hands. Responsible for five carries on the ensuing drive the last resulted in a momentum shift type of play.
“They came out and played as hard as they could in the second half,” Gilliland said.
Down 28-14, Crager broke free from the Titans for a 30-yard run with 11:18 left in the game. After a Crager tw0-point rush, the game was suddenly within six points.
“Our kids decided that they weren’t going to lay down and didn’t want to go out on a sour note,” Gilliland said. “I couldn’t have asked more out of them.”
However, the Titans were not about to give up their halftime lead to the Tartans. On a night in which it seemed like Notre Dame had an answer for everything, Smith answered.
Smith, who finished with 152 yards on 14 carries and two touchdowns, answered with a 18-yard run with 9:25 left in the game. After a 2-point conversion Notre Dame extended their lead back up by 14.
Crager and East ran out of gas as they had no answer and after Notre Dame scored with under two minutes remaining, the comeback fell short as the Titans revenged a loss from a season ago.
East 7 0 7 8 22
Notre Dame 14 14 0 14 42
8:51 ND- Toleman 43 pass from Mader (Lewis kick) 7-0
6:32 ND- Lewis 77 yard punt return (Lewis kick) 14-0
6:13 East- Crager 66 run (Seibert kick) 14-7
11:16 ND- Milani 1 run (Lewis kick) 21-7
2:41 ND- Smith 78 run (Lewis kick) 28-7
5:00 East- Crager 13 run (Seibert kick) 28-14
11:18 East- Crager 30 run (run good) 28-22
9:25 ND- Smith 18 run (run good) 36-22
1:54 ND- Kayser 17 run (kick fail) 42-22
East Notre Dame
First Downs 13 10
Total Net Yards 343 335
Rushes-yards 57-343 30-257
Passing 0 78
Comp-Att-Int 1-2-1 4-5-0
Punts-yards 2-42 1-34
Fumbles-lost 1-1 2-2
Penelties-yards 6-75 5-53
PASSING: Notre Dame_ Mader; 4-5-0-78-1; East; Stiltner, 0-1-0, Crager, 1-1-1
RUSHING: Notre Dame_ Smith, 14-152-2, Kayser, 8-91, Milani, 4-12, Mader, 2-6, Lewis, 2—4; East; Haddox, 1-1, Crager, 43-309-3, Toller, 11-34, Bradford, 1—7, Stiltner, 1-6.
RECEIVING: Notre Dame; Lewis, 1-6, Toleman, 2-64, Smith, 1-8