PDT Sports Editor
Notre Dame will look to improve to 5-0 when it hosts Villa Angela-St. Joseph Saturday at Spartan Stadium. The Vikings are also unbeaten coming into the matchup.
The Titans have yet to be tested on the season, as they have outscored their opponents by a combined score of 191-20.
Coach Bob Ashley is pleased with his team’s start but acknowledges they still have room for improvement.
“We’ve done a pretty good job gelling as a unit overall,” Ashley said. “We still have a lot to work on. We need to be more consistent, especially with tackling. But overall, we are getting better each week.”
Notre Dame’s closest contest came a week ago when they allowed Northwest to score a touchdown on the game’s opening possession. The Titans went on to defeat the Mohawks 47-7.
“That first series (against Northwest), we didn’t realize it at the time until we got word from up top but we were not aligned according to how we game planned,” Ashley said. “Once we found out what was going on and why were breaking down so much, with the alignment, we got things corrected on the sidelines. The kids did a good job of carrying out their assignments and carrying out the gameplan.”
Notre Dame used a gimmick defense to slow down Northwest’s vaunted rushing attack. According to Ashley, freshman nose guard Hunter Harrell was aligning three yards off of the line of scrimmage. The Titans would then use their defensive tackles and ends on various stunts to disrupt the Mohawks blocking assignments. On the outside, Notre Dame had their corners playing at the line of scrimmage and reading the wingbacks in Northwest’s offensive formations.
“It was a new defense and it took a while for our kids to grasp it,” Ashley said. “I knew the size of Northwest was (going to be) an issue, it was just hard to simulate that during the week.”
This week, the Titans shift their focus to Villa Angela-St. Joseph who has scored 148 points in its first four games. By contrast, the most points that Notre Dame has allowed in a game this season was when Grove City Christian put up 13 against the Titans on September 14th. Two of the four games were shutouts.
However, this week, the best defense might be a good offense.
“Villa does a lot of things, a lot of different formations,” Ashley said. “They will go twin split, no tight ends, out of the I. They run everything primarily out of the gun. They will run zone read and counter trey. They also have a real good passing attack. It’s going to be hard for us to zero in on one thing.”
According to Ashley, the Vikings have a quarterback that has the ability to throw the ball, run the ball and read the defense on option looks.
“I hope we can move the chains and definitely try to keep them off the field,” Ashley said. “It’s to our advantage to have the football and keep them off the field. They have big play capabilities.”
Notre Dame’s offense will rely on their bread and butter, which is the running game.
Jack Kayser and Dakota Smith will lead the rushing attack for the Titans. Kayser and Smith each eclipsed the 100-yard mark against the Mohawks.
“Jack does a great job of running between the tackles and Dakota Smith is the type of runner that likes to get to the edge,” Ashley said. “He (Smith) likes to stretch a play and has the speed to do that. I think they both compliment each other very well.”
Ashley acknowledges the desire to get the passing attack going if the opportunities present themselves.
“We are going to have to make a conscious effort to do a better job of calling plays,” Ashley said. “With our running game where it’s at, our passing game will open up, especially our play action passing game. I’ve got to do a better job of picking and choosing during the game the spots where we can be effective running play action.”
The three keys to the contest for the Titans, according to Ashley, will be physicality along the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Notre Dame’s secondary will be tested and must rise to the occasion and the defense must display consistent tackling.
For complete game recap, visit www.portsmouth-dailytimes.com.
Chris Slone can be reached at 353-3101, ext 298, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking sports news, follow Chris on Twitter @crslone.