NILES — All year, Matt Curley’s taken it upon himself to rally his teammates after a tough loss or practice. So, with Notre Dame needing a win Friday against St. Patrick to keep its playoff hopes alive, the team turned to none other than its senior wide receiver.
“Matt is an important key figure as far as what we do,” Dons coach Michael Hennessey said. “His leadership is not just out here on the football field but inside the locker room, too. He was very inspirational this week and it showed.”
Indeed it did. Curley hauled in eight catches for 134 yards and two scores in a 40-14 East Suburban Catholic win over the Shamrocks. Hennessey said it was the most complete game his team has played all year.
“We knew that if it wasn’t now, then it was going to be never,” Curley said. “We have two tough opponents left, but we want to make the playoffs. We want to go out with a bang. We’re going to give it everything we got.”
It sure seemed that way on Friday. With Notre Dame (3-4, 2-3) staring at a 7-0 deficit in the first quarter, Curley caught a pass on the left sideline, broke a tackle and outran the entire Shamrocks defense for a 62-yard score.
On Notre Dame’s second drive, he turned what looked to be a five-yard loss into a five-yard gain by slipping past two St. Patrick defenders.
Then just before the end of the first half, quarterback Tyler Tsagalis escaped the pass rush and hit Curley streaking downfield behind defenders for a 38-yard touchdown. That gave Notre Dame a 21-7 lead over St. Patrick (2-5, 0-5).
“That’s what you want,” Hennessey said. “Guys that are going to make plays for you, you have to find ways to get them the ball. He had a couple big plays for us earlier this year and a couple tonight.”
It came at just the right time for Notre Dame, which had lost its previous two games. And with his team needing to beat Marian Catholic (1-6, 0-5) and Carmel (4-3, 3-2) the next two weeks in order to keep its playoff hopes alive, Curley, said he has again put it upon himself to lead the Dons down the stretch.
“I am going to keep our team up no matter what happens,” he said. “There’s going to be big plays for the other team; they’re going to score. But I am just going to keep everyone up, and that’s what I was trying to do today.”