At 2-5, trailing by a point in the fourth quarter and having already blown a 13-point lead, it would've been easy for the Notre Dame-West Haven football team to claim a moral victory against Fairfield Prep.
But the Green Knights shocked even themselves and struck a debilitating blow into the Jesuits' state playoff hopes.
Notre Dame running back Cameran Tucker rushed for 146 yards and a touchdown as the Green Knights stunned Prep 21-14 on Friday night at Alumni Field.
"I'm proud of my guys," ND coach Tom Marcucci said. "Sometimes when you're losing, you cave in on that. I'm proud of the way the kids played. They played with great heart out here."
Blake Rice's 27-yard touchdown strike to Christopher Perry with just 8:50 to play put ND ahead for good. The Green Knights forced six Prep turnovers, including Jamie Raymond's 35-yard fumble return for a touchdown that put ND ahead 13-0 with just 35.7 seconds left in the first half.
"That was big," Marcucci said.
Prep's John Moten rushed for 151 yards and two touchdowns, but had two costly fourth-quarter fumbles. The Jesuits fell to 5-3 and were all but eliminated from Class LL playoff contention with the loss.
"The difference between a good record and a bad record is actually very slim," Prep coach Tom Shea said. "It's a couple of dumb plays and early in the year we weren't making those. Now we're imploding and making those kinds of mistakes."
Trailing 14-13, the Green Knights went 69 yards in nine plays, capped by Rice's strike to Perry on third-and-16 that put ND back in front 21-13 after the duo hooked up for the two-point conversion.
"I thought we responded well," Marcucci said. "That was a beautiful pass play for the touchdown."
The Green Knights struggled to shake Prep, despite forcing three fourth-quarter fumbles. The Jesuits took over at ND's 45 with just 2:10 left after Tucker fumbled.
But Prep failed to move the ball and Moten's fumble, recovered by ND, and a first down on the Green Knights' subsequent possession, finally put Prep away.
"We couldn't put them away," Marcucci said. "We kept taking the ball back though."
Raymond's fumble return came just 19.5 seconds after Tucker's 10-yard touchdown run as ND took the 13-point lead into halftime.
But Prep came out firing after the break, with Moten rushing all five plays, including his 45-yard run to paydirt, which cut the ND lead to 13-7.
"We just did some things that we were capable of doing," Shea said.
Moten's second touchdown run, from 69 yards out, gave the Jesuits a slim 14-13 lead with 4:10 left in the third.
"We thought we had the momentum," Shea said. "But we couldn't get the stop. ... Momentum is a tenuous thing."
Notre Dame-West haven 21, fairfield prep 14
ND-WEST HAVEN.....................0 13 0 7--21
FAIRFIELD PREP......................0 0 14 0--14
NDWH--Cameran Tucker 10 run (Samuel Gaidish kick)
NDWH--Jamie Raymond 35 fumble recovery (kick failed)
FP--Moten 69 run (Coyle kick)
NDWH--Christopher Perry 27 pass Blake Rice (Perry pass Rice)
Records: ND-West Haven 3-5, Fairfield Prep 5-3.