Notre Dame running back Chris James will get most of Lake Forest’s attention in Friday’s Class 6A quarterfinal game in Niles.
The junior deserves the focus after running for nearly 500 yards and nine touchdowns in two playoff wins so far.
But Dons quarterback Dan Nagode isn’t to be ignored.
Steinmetz found that out on Nov. 2 in Notre Dame’s 35-8 win at Hanson Stadium.
Nagode threw a 41-yard touchdown to Matt Nunez on the team’s first play of the second series to break open the game.
“Having the ball in Danny’s hands is a good thing,” Notre Dame coach Mike Hennessey said.
The first-year starter has the Dons (7-4) in the third round of the state playoffs for the first time since 1997.
Nagode led Notre Dame to touchdowns on four of the team’s first five possessions in the first half against Steinmetz as the Dons went into intermission ahead 35-0.
In two quarters, he went 3-for-5 for 55 yards and one touchdown and one interception. He also ran for 22 yards and a score.
Nagode, who lives on Chicago’s Northwest Side, rose up the ranks in the program and finally earned his chance this season as a senior.
“I really worked hard to get to this point,” he said. “It’s been awesome. Winning these playoff games means a lot to our coaches and our fans. We have a lot of people behind us, so it’s been a pretty big deal.”
Even though Notre Dame squeezed into the postseason as an at-large team, Nagode believed the Dons, who play host to the Scouts at 7:30 tonight, were a dangerous team. He said playing in the East Suburban Catholic Conference prepared the team for big games.
“We know we can compete with any team, and we did that during the season,” said Nagode, whose team lost two games by seven points. “If we play our game, we can play with anyone.”
Up next is a Lake Forest team (8-3) that beat Lakes 23-21 in the second round with a field goal in the final two minutes.
Like the Dons, the Scouts have been competitive all season long. One of the team’s losses was a forfeit during a school strike. Another was by six points to Stevenson in overtime, and another was by three to Warren.
Lake Forest, which shared the NSC Lake title, is in the quarterfinals for the first time since 1990.
“I don’t know too much about them,” Nagode said. “But we just have to play our game. It doesn’t matter who we play. We will take it game by game.”