BLACKSVILLE — In most years, when it’s late October and Clay-Battelle is hosting rival Notre Dame, the big question to be answered is which team will be positioned to host a playoff game and which will start the postseason on the road.
But this isn’t most years, at least not in Class A. While the No. 14-ranked Cee-Bees have been in playoff mode for weeks in the top-heavy Single A standings, the struggling Fighting Irish could only hope to play spoiler.
And with the game in the balance in the fourth quarter, it was Notre Dame’s Ryan LaAsmar who came up with two huge plays, one a long touchdown pass, the other a clinching pick-six, to propel his Irish to a 34-20 upset win Oct. 27.
In order to keep N.D.’s high-powered spread offense off the field, C-B coach Ryan Wilson game-planned a heavy dose of the ground game, and for the first quarter, his Cee-Bees executed to near-perfection.
A 14-play, 70-yard drive on their first possession was capped by Travis Dille’s 2-yard TD run, although the PAT was blocked.
When the kickoff was drilled into the line of Irish players and fumbled, C-B recovered, then quickly drove for another score. The hard-driving Dille finished again, this time from the 6.
Cee-Bees defensive back Seth Casino picked off quarterback LaAsmar on N.D.’s first play from scrimmage, and by the end of the quarter, the Cee-Bees enjoyed a 24-4 advantage in plays run, and outgained N.D. by 155 (all on the ground) to zero in forging a 12-0 lead.
The second quarter was a whole different story.
The Irish scored twice and took control of the game and the scoreboard. LaAsmar found wide receiver Samuel Romano on a 10-yard post pass to cut into the deficit, and as the adjusting N.D. defense continued to stuff the C-B running game, a 46-yard halfback option pass from Gabriel Lopez to Romano flipped the score, and the half ended with C-B down, 14-12.
Things got worse for the Cee-Bees early in the third quarter. A fumble deep in their own end led to a
3-yard plunge from Irish running back Pat Snuffer to make it 21-13.
C-B needed a spark, and got it when Casino arched a beautiful bomb to Camden Varner down the left sideline. He shielded the defensive back, snagged the ball, and sprinted in for a 64-yard score.
Casino weaved his way to the pylon on the two-point try to make it 21-20.
As the final quarter began, Clay-Battelle drove inside the Irish 20, but the drive stalled. C-B defensive back Gunner Brummage picked off LaAsmar to set up another chance to take the lead, but the offense couldn’t move the ball and punted.
LaAsmar then found Romano open on a fly pattern for a 34-yard, back-breaking score with under six minutes to play, although the PAT was missed, leaving the Cee-Bees down by seven points.
LaAsmar put the final touches on the upset on the next C-B offensive series when he tracked down a long pass at the 44, then raced down the left sideline for a comeback-killing interception TD return and a 34-20 win.
“We started just about exactly how we wanted,” a disappointed Wilson said after the game, “but field position really hurt us the whole second quarter, and they took advantage with some splash plays. We came back in the third quarter, but they made the big plays down the stretch.
“It was a tough loss for us, of course,” he continued, “a rivalry game, a conference game, and it hurts our chances for the playoffs. But that doesn’t take away from how we fought hard out there. It just wasn’t our night.”
Clay-Battelle closes out its regular season at home against Madonna, on Nov. 3, at 7 p.m.