Notre Dame Prep Turns Page, Focused For 2017

The Notre Dame Prep Saints built their program over recent years with the team going 8-2 last year.

But they didn’t make the playoffs.

The Saints had violated AIA bylaws, and the AIA ruled the Saints were on probation and banned from the 2016 postseason and spring ball. This spring, not only was Notre Dame missing out on play-install and conditioning but they also missed out on the opportunity for colleges to visit campus for recruiting.

Head coach Mark Nolan was fired, athletic director Monica Barrett and school president Jim Gmelich resigned as a result. Freshman coach George Prelock was promoted to varsity head coach.

Being away from the field for so long has made the Saints hungrier than ever, and they are ready to get to work.

“I think really the punishments last year with not being in the playoffs contributes to that too,” Notre Dame running back and linebacker Cole Fisher said. “Our kids love to play, so it’s very upsetting and hurts with recruiting-wise when we don’t have spring ball. So we want to prove we can play with anybody and I think we can do that.”

The Saints have about 50 seniors on this year’s team, with almost all of them being coached by Prelock at the freshman level. Going through last year’s off-field struggles have helped galvanize the team.

“I think it mainly bonded us more than anything,” Fisher said. “We’ve all been together since seventh or eighth grade year and we all came here. There’s about 46 to 50 of us so I think we’ve all had the same goal since we’ve come here freshman year: We’re going to win state senior year. That’s what we are here to compete for, and I think we have a really good chance at it.”

With much of the Notre Dame Prep offensive line returning, along with Fisher in the backfield, wide receivers Blake Storey and Jordan Stengel and quarterback Kylan Weisser, the offense is slated for a big year.

Storey, standing at 6-foot-3 and 170 pounds is a matchup nightmare for cornerbacks and is a lacrosse commit to the University of Utah.

“I think it’s (helped) awareness of the field,” Storey said. “I didn’t really understand spacing when I started (playing) receiver. But after lacrosse, I was really able to space myself in the offense and find holes in the defense.”

Defensively, seven of the team’s ten top tacklers return including Vincent Elrod and Joey Jaquint, who both had over 100 tackles on the year. The Saints also feature one of the best long-snappers in the state (and nation) in Slater Zellers.

“Versatile, that’s the best way I can (describe the team),” Storey said. “I think almost every player on both sides of the ball can play every position at this point.”

This season had been a long time coming for this senior group before they had to sit out, and the postseason and spring ball bans have made the sense of urgency rise with the Saints.

“It means everything, these kids have been with me forever,” Storey said. “I don’t want to let them down and they don’t want to let me down. We’re going for state this year.”

What’s Next

The Notre Dame Prep Saints take the field for the first time on August 18th at Shadow Ridge.

Mixing his passions for sports and storytelling, Jordan comes to Sports360az as a multimedia reporter/producer looking to share the best stories Arizona has to offer. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @JordyHamm