For the first time this season, Notre Dame-Fairfield football coach Ted Boynton had some tangible plays to point to as signs of progress after one of his Lancers’ games. Following Saturday’s 62-32 loss to visiting Weston, in a SWC Patriot Division game at McCarty Stadium, Boynton did not rate his team’s effort as well-rounded or complete by any stretch because the Lancers’ defense was on the field for seven of the nine touchdowns scored by Weston (3-2 overall, 2-1 division). Yet on the other side of the ball, for the first time all year, there was more than a little life, more than some appreciable movement of the pigskin.
Weston’s defense had its hands full.
Senior Marcus Fulton tantalized the Trojans with more than a mere breakthrough performance. Fulton, one of five seniors on the Lancers, left the field in the fourth quarter for a younger player with four TDs and 278 yards on just six carries. He escaped for scoring runs of 59, 17, 70 and 75 yards. Three of his touchdowns came on the same play, a reverse in which a running back took a handoff from a Notre Dame quarterback before giving it to Fulton. Another reverse netted him 45 yards. His other score was a blast through the middle, before a quick move left him in the clear where his speed took over.
His 59-yarder to open the game’s scoring gave Notre Dame (0-5, 0-2 Patriot) its first lead of the year. The Lancers had amassed just 26 points in their four previous games, so in one afternoon they more than doubled their output for the season. And in the second quarter, Notre Dame outscored the Trojans by 12-8. Winless teams must win a quarter first before winning a half then an entire game.
Trent Hudson, a wide receiver in the preseason, had played some at quarterback this fall, and he split duties there with junior Kyle Aldrich on Saturday for ND. Hudson, who caught a pass for 29 yards, rushed for 97 yards on 16 carries, but 20 yards were lost when he took snaps at QB and was tackled behind the line on passing plays.
Sophomore Hakim Fleming, a bruising fullback at 5-foot-11 and 250 pounds, had been the featured back in the Lancers’ offense for most of the season. His yardage had been curtailed because opponents’ defensive game plans were centered on stopping him within the Lancers’ previously one-dimensional offense – power rushing by Fleming. Fleming left the game in the third quarter with cramps. Before he did, he had 72 yards on eight carries. On one 20-yard rush, he failed to allow several tacklers to drag him down upon first reaching him.
The Lancers’ defense wore down in the second half from fatigue, Boynton said. That’s because most of his starters go both ways, and the ‘D’ absorbed some pounding by tackling powerful Peter Lummis, who had four touchdowns for the Trojans, and 6-3 quarterback Erik Dammen-Brower. Many of the Lancers starters are also on the punting and kickoff units. So there was little rest at all.
Although the 30-point final deficit for Notre Dame might not be judged as a competitive outcome, its 48-32 deficit entering the fourth quarter left the final result to be decided in the last period of play. “This game isn’t over until we say it’s over,” the Lancers coaching staff told the players at the start of the fourth quarter. Notre Dame didn’t have much of a response in the fourth quarter. Being tired can do that to a team.
Boynton, an assistant for 10 years before taking over as head coach this fall, viewed the game as a confidence builder. He has been steadfast in his approach this year, believing a consistent message is the best way to ingrain the points the Lancers need to absorb to grow individually and as a steam. “We put in one system on offense and one system on defense,” he said. It has been the coaching staff’s responsibility, he said, to see what’s not working and then devising ways to improve it.
“Little by little we’re starting to fix things,” Boynton said.