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Iona, Notre Dame Revisit Old Rivary

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Iona, Notre Dame Revisit Old Rivary

Notre Dame won in the rain last week. Chris Sustersic photo.

It's the battle of scary Irish mascots as Iona takes on Notre Dame at Iona Saturday.

It's the Gaels vs the Fighting Irish, which, if you look at their logos, seems to be the same thing.

Iona is once again the strongest team in the Liberty Conference, while Notre Dame has been battling through an independent DIA schedule. Win or lose, neither team is planning to be a part of the DIA playoffs in the spring. They like to divide it up, 15s in the fall and 7s when the snows melt. But they are still looking at some Catholic school pride here.

Notre Dame already took a victory over such a rival last week, beating St. Bonaventure 13-10 in very wintry conditions in South Bend. That game, said Head Coach Justin Hickey, was all about battling.

"We talked about taking the emotion out of it," said Hickey. "But there are also times you have to dig deep. We were hustling, getting on loose balls and doing all the scrappy things that make a difference."

Mike Mattarazzo has moved from lock to No. 8 and is a powerful presence in the forwards. Notre Dame's forwards overall are very big and powerful, and they can control the game at times. Chad Sasiatek has moved from scrumhalf to hooker, and he has blossomed there, helping the Irish win a ot more set -piece ball.

Out wide, they rely on Leo Fangmeyer at flyhalf to direct the attack, and he's doing that despite expecting to play the season at fullback.

Iona, meanwhile, will run their attack through Connor Buckley at scrumhalf and John Powers at flyhalf. Those two are very smart and smooth operators, and it will be their job to direct the pace of the game.

Head Coach Bruce McLane acknowledged that Iona won big over Notre Dame last year, but said that victory was heavily dependent on a superb game from All American Santi Mascolo. With Mascolo out for the year with a nasty foot fracture, Iona will need many more players to step into that void.

Iona's pack is not big and will need to use mobility to counter Notre Dame's size. Hooker Tyler Ringwood will have a big role to play, but not just him; flanker Cam DiGiorgio, prop Nandipha Dube (returning from injury), and finishers center Watson Filikitonga and wing Colby Marshall all will need to be solid.

"Above all, we have to be accurate," said McLane.

Kickoff is 3PM Saturday at Iona's Mazzella Field.