After flying under the radar all season, Notre Dame Prep making history; ‘We’re all just living in the moment, soaking it up’
There’s a lot of excitement surrounding the Pontiac Notre Dame Prep football team this season, it’s just not a lot of people know about it.
The elation and high spirits exists solely in the Fighting Irish family, since very few prep football fans across the Metro Detroit area seem to be aware of the thrill-a-minute NDP gridders due to the program no longer being part of the Catholic League and playing a hodge-podge independent regular-season schedule.
NPD (10-1) dusted a plucky Ortonville Brandon squad 54-40 back on Friday to claim the program’s first district title in 15 years. The Fighting Irish will be seeking their first-ever regional crown when they square off at home with Flint Powers (9-2) in a Division 4 regional championship game later this week.
“We play an upbeat, fun and fast-tempo style of football and the kids love it,” NDP coach Pat Fox said. “We’re in rapid-fire mode the entire game, we want to dictate pace and keep the pedal to the metal.”
Fox has been around the Oakland County coaching scene for three decades, having taken clubs at Berkley and Milford to wins in the playoffs in the 1990s and 2000s, respectively. His NDP Fighting Irish are putting up fireworks on offense in 2019, averaging almost 40 points per contest and the defensive unit is causing commotion, too. The Golden Domer ‘D’ plays aggressive and gets to the ball in a hurry (three shutouts).
Junior signal caller Jacob Bendtsen is in the midst of a breakout season in the pocket, picking apart secondaries like a pro. The 6-foot-3 flamethrower has logged 1,775 yards and 26 touchdowns through the air this year and has also found the end zone eight times with his feet. Fighting Irish receivers Clayton Bone and Ethan Johnson have nine touchdown grabs apiece.
Connor Gaeschke can gash defenses with the best around out of the backfield and goes into regionals with 1,210 yards and 19 scores rushing. Purdue commit Nalin Fox fuels the protection unit for Bendtsen and clears the way for Gaeschke in the run game.
Middle linebacker Alex Whalen quarterbacks the defense and has recorded 101 tackles. Sophomore rush end Evan Noga has notched 10 sacks.
NDP’s only loss was to out-of-state Guerin Catholic on the road in Indianapolis. That was in Week 6. Fox’s Fighting Irish haven’t been tested since.
“We’ve been gaining steam, playing high-caliber football, but we can’t rest on our laurels though,” said the veteran Fox looking forward. “We’re really enjoying ourselves. This is a remarkable group. They live to play the game, they love to compete. We aren’t ready to be done yet. I think we have quite a bit more great football in us left to be played, so we’ll see and only time will tell. Right now, we’re all just living in the moment, soaking it up as much as we can.”