ZEPHYR — Notre Dame's Danny Otto said he felt like he was in a movie toward the end of the Knights' TAPPS Div. II state semifinal game against the Fredericksburg Heritage Eagles on Saturday afternoon.
Junior running back Cody McElroy scored on a 70-yard run to give his team an uncomfortable four-point lead with two minutes left on the clock.
Two minutes, however, was more than enough time for the Eagles to reach the end zone as the defending state champs came back for a 54-52 win.
The home team scored on the third play of its drive, leaving 1:39 left on the clock.
Notre Dame was looking for the feel-good ending and to avenge a loss to Heritage in last year's semifinal.
The Knights were knocking on the door at the 10-yard line with eight seconds to go on what would be their final possession of the year.
There Otto, confused by an incorrect down marker on both the scoreboard and the sideline, spiked the ball on fourth down giving the Eagles the two-point win.
The abrupt ending was hard to fathom for most of the Knights, whose season ends at 10-1.
"I can't even begin to put in words how incredibly proud I am of these boys, especially the seniors," coach Don Carlson said of the Knights. "Even though we came up short in the end, this season was something magical."
Although Notre Dame led by 18 at the half, 38-20, the Eagles (9-2) were able to slow down the Knights as they held them scoreless in the third quarter to pull within four, 38-34.
That quarter made all the difference,
"Give that team a ton of credit," Heritage coach Tim Shipmann said. "Neither team really deserved to lose today."
This marks the fifth year in a row that a Notre Dame team has made it to the playoffs and the second year in a row to the state semifinals.
"Hopefully this is the start of a tradition." said McElroy, who rushed for 288 yards and three touchdowns on the day. "We've got a great group of guys coming back and great coaches. I want to see them again next year."
Wes Brinkman rushed for 68 yards and two scores of his own, while Otto was 4-of-16 for 35 yards and an 11-yard touchdown to Hunter Quintero.
Standouts on defense were Quintero, Cobi Niedzwiecki and Hunter Wolfe.
Heritage 14 6 14 20—54
Notre Dame 16 22 0 14—52
First downs 16 10
Rushes-yards 39-315 29-383
Comp-Att-Int 10-23-1 4-16-0
Punts-Avg. 0-0 0-0
Fumbles-Lost 4-2 3-2
Penalties-Yds. 6-30 6-30
RUSHING — Notre Dame, Cody McElroy 0-288, Wes Brinkman 0-68.
PASSING — Notre Dame, Danny Otto 4-16-35-0.
RECEIVING — Notre Dame, Hunter Quintero 1-11, Cobi Niedzwiecki 2-18.
RECORDS — Fredericksburg Heritage 9-2, Notre Dame 10-1.