NILES — Notre Dame star running back Chris James said the team’s current group of seniors knew early in their football careers with the Dons that they could be something special.
James and the Dons also know they’ll have to dig deep as they prepare for the playoffs following back-to-back losses.
It was a disappointing end to the regular season for Notre Dame, which lost 38-14 to Joliet Catholic on Oct. 18 and fell 24-21 to Carmel on Friday.
The Dons (6-3 overall, 3-3 ESCC) lamented the missed opportunities in the latter. After recovering a blocked punt in the Corsairs’ red zone late in the fourth quarter, the Dons failed to come away with any points and went on to lose to a team that entered the game with a 1-7 record.
“We just couldn’t finish,” James said. “We have to play with more heart. That’s going to be the model for this week.”
Senior linebacker Tom Sora isn’t concerned about any perceived lack of momentum going into the team’s first-round Class 8A playoff game Friday at Fremd (6-3).
“We wanted to go into the playoffs on a good note,” Sora said. “We know we could have played better in the first half (Friday) … but we have short memories when it comes to losses.”
The loss to Carmel came despite another impressive game by James. The senior ran for 243 yards and three touchdowns on 36 carries.
“I just want to go out with a bang,” James said. “But really, it’s not about the personal accolades. I just want us to make state and end all of our careers on a high note.”
It helps, James said, that there’s a sense of urgency among the seniors.
“We’ve had the same goal since our freshman year, when the team went 8-1,” James said. “When we finished that year, we all said that come our senior year, we’d go all out. We want to go out with a bang and make this class one to remember.”
For that to happen, Notre Dame may have to build off of the defensive success it had in the second half against Carmel. The Dons had allowed their highest point total of the season against the Hilltoppers and struggled to slow the Corsairs in the first half Friday.
Notre Dame trailed 17-6 at the half before taking the lead late in the third quarter.
Sora said that getting the defense back on track figures to make it easier for the offense.
“I think our defense really compliments our run game,” Sora said. “If we can get off the field quickly and put the offense in good field position, it should make for a pretty fantastic football game.”