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Falcons Win Battle of Notre Dames

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Falcons Win Battle of Notre Dames

Notre Dame College is now 2-0. David Barpal photo.

Notre Dame College visited South Bend, Ind., Friday to play the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the 1st annual Notre Dame Catholic Cup.

In an interesting set of games, the NDC Falcons A side won convincingly over the Fighting Irish, but hosts B side won a close one to give them a boost going into a tough series of fixtures.

The UND players were just coming off a short preseason after learning that longtime coach Sean O’Leary would be stepping down. Lonnie Heeter has taken over the reins of the Irish, with O’Leary set to leave the school entirely in a couple of weeks.

Notre Dame College arrived with school president Tom Kruczek and his wife, Carrie, to cheer on the Falcons and participate in the ceremonial coin toss. Kruczek was a double-domer, receiving both his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Notre Dame, but was all about Notre Dame College when he arrived at the game. The two coaches, Heeter and Jason Fox, also know each other well, and were frequent rivals when Fox coached at St. Edward in Ohio and Heeter at Penn HS in Indiana.

In the A-side match, Notre Dame College, which had been training for two weeks, dominated. With strong performances by all the pack players up front, the Falcons backs were able to test the Irish defense.

Back player of the game Marcus Tupuola, a USA U20 player, scored three tries on some impressive individual efforts.  Cory Graham, Roneil Reynolds, and Dustin Beavis each scored two tries, and Zach Forro added one.

Logan Weinstock controlled the pace of the Falcon attack at scrumhalf, while up front Cullen Barelka, showed why he is a USA U20 candidate this year with his strong running and able defense. Also showing well were hooker Nick Jaughin, Alec Janotka at prop, and captain and lock Spencer Duncan.

In the B-side game, University of Notre Dame pounced on an error near the NDC line to score late and take a 16-12 lead, which the Irish held to win 16-15. 

For the Irish, this was a tough day, but Heeter said the key was to get on the field for the young players.

“We started nine freshmen or transfers, and we’ve basically had only two practices,” said Heeter. “James Fox has a lot of talent at Notre Dame College and they played well. But we’ve got some good young players and we had some good moments.”

This was a big game for Notre Dame College as the Falcons have embarked on a DIAA independent schedule, and have beaten Buffalo and the Fighting Irish, will look ahead to Kentucky and West Virginia in the next two weeks.

The University of Notre Dame may have just started training, but they still have Michigan and Navy to look forward to.

Of course, also on the Notre Dame campus this past week and this coming week is the Australian national team. The Wallabies have been working out at North Bend, first in preparation of this past Saturday’s game with the USA in Chicago, and now in anticipation of the Rugby World Cup, which begins September 18 (September 23 for the Aussies).

Heeter said the Wallabies have been stellar visitors, showing the Notre Dame players how training and attention to details should be addressed, but also having fun on campus, meeting people, and even the little things, like picking up after themselves.

“You would never know they were superstars,” Heeter said.