Notre Dame-Fairfield's Thanksgiving eve win over Immaculate was not pretty, but Lancers head coach Dawon Dicks would take it anyway.
ND scored twice on special teams, including William Kelly's blocked punt for a score, which was the difference in ND's 26-22 win over Immaculate on Wednesday night at Western Connecticut State University.
"We worked hard every day and kept improving," ND junior quarterback Matt Moffat said. "We finally got the win and it felt good."
ND's Marcus Fulton had a kickoff return for a touchdown as Lancers' coach Dawon Dicks earned his first varsity win. ND finished 1-9, beating Immaculate for the fourth straight year.
"It's been a long year," Dicks said. "It was a team effort ... I think for Thanksgiving, you couldn't really ask for anything better."
Immaculate freshman quarterback Matthew Ryan twice connected with sophomore Darrel Bowman for touchdowns as the Mustangs finished 0-10.
"Our kids played hard," Immaculate coach Tom Taylor said. "We played the best we played on offense all year ... and I'm proud as heck."
Trailing 26-14, Ryan led Immaculate on an 11-play, 80-yard drive -- a drive on which he was 4-for-8. The freshman capped the march with a 20-yard strike to Bowman which cut ND's advantage to 26-22 with just 1:02 to play.
"These kids didn't quit," Taylor said.
But the ensuing onside kick went right at Moffat, and the junior scooped it up, sealing ND's win.
"That was a scary play, I was nervous," Moffat said. "I was kind of freaking out and the ball came at me and I was like `Oh!' so I got down and I got the play and I knew the game was over."
The Mustangs scored on their first drive, capping it with Steven Ghossaini's 2-yard run, just 1:01 in, to take an 8-0 lead.
But Fulton's 75-yard return on the ensuing kickoff tied the score at 8 and propagated a 20-point scoring run for ND.
"Any time you give up a kickoff return, it's deflating," Taylor said. "We knew they were very dangerous on the kick return and that's who we wanted to kick it to."
On ND's next offensive possession, the Lancers went 42 yards in 11 plays, capped by freshman running back Hakim Fleming's 1-yard plunge, which gave the Lancers a 14-8 lead.
"He's a load," Dicks said. "It took him a while to get his legs up underneath him ... but
he stepped up. He's
going to be a big part of
our progression to becoming a competitive
After Moffat's 10-yard touchdown pass to Jelani Roman put ND ahead 20-8, Ryan took the Mustangs 58 yards in seven plays, capped by his 45-yard touchdown to Bowman, cutting ND's lead to 20-14.
But Kelly blocked a punt on Immaculate's first second-half drive and returned it five yards for
the Lancers' second
special teams score,
boosting their advantage to 26-14.
"That's a freshman right there," Dicks said. "He was smart enough to pick it up and score ... you couldn't ask for more than that."
ND-FAIRFIELD 14 6 6 0-- 26
IMMACULATE 8 6 0 8-- 22
I-- Steven Ghossaini 2 run (Michael Woods pass Matthew Ryan)
ND-- Marcus Fulton 75 kickoff return (Jordan Pettway run)
ND-- Hakim Fleming 1 run (run failed)
ND-- Jelani Roman 10 pass Matt Moffat (run failed)
I-- Darrel Bowman 45 pass Ryan (run failed)
ND-- William Kelly 5 block punt return (pass failed)
I-- Bowman 20 pass Ryan (Bowman pass Ryan)
Records: ND-Fairfield 1-9; Immaculate 0-10