Notre Dame-Fairfield coach John Johnson during a football game between Notre Dame-Fairfield and Stratford at McCarty Stadium, Fairfield on Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021.
FAIRFIELD — The wait is over.
Notre Dame-Fairfield’s football team last took the field for a state playoff game in 2002. With its 46-0 win over Pomperaug on Thanksgiving eve, Notre Dame improved to 8-2 and secured the seventh seed in Class S.
Cromwell/Portland, the No. 1 seed with a 10-0 record, will host Notre Dame in a quarterfinal matchup at 6:30 at Pierson Park in Cromwell. It will be the Panthers first playoff berth since 2018.
The journey has had interesting turns for coach John Johnson and his Lancers.
“This is the culmination of hard work by all the players, especially this group of seniors,” Johnson said before putting his team through Monday practice. “I asked them to believe in me. They’ve stuck it out through the tough times.”
Tayshawn Dixon and the No. 7 seeded Notre Dame-Fairfield Lancers will meet No. 2 Cromwell/Portland in the Class S football quarterfinals.
Jailon Denny, Tayshawn Dixon, Jaidyn Cummings and Rakaigh Pettway are team captains.
“Jailon is a dynamic player for us,” Johnson said of his senior quarterback who has thrown for 10 touchdowns and rushed for nine scores. “Tayshawn (12 TDs) has speed to burn. Jaidyn and Rakaigh are two-way lineman.”
Notre Dame, with sophomore Jonathan Williamson tacking on 744 yards and nine touchdowns, is averaging 267 yards a game on the ground.
Cromwell/Portland boasts a balanced attack (181 yards passing/178 rushing).
“They are well coached with a lot of shifts and motion,” Johnson said. “They have a talented quarterback (Cole Brisson, 22 touchdowns), running back (Alexander Hair, 10 touchdowns) and receiver (Teddy Williams, 14 TDs). Linebackers key their defense.”
Cromwell/Portland has outscored opponents 394-64.
Neither Denny (one interception) or Brisson (four picks in 87 more attempts) turn the ball over.
That contrasts with the opposing defenses that love to apply pressure.
Notre Dame has forced 28 turnovers. Bailey Coleman has five interceptions. Ariel Hanley has nine of ND’s 26 quarterback sacks. C/P, led by safety Ben Fagan’s six picks, has intercepted 16 passes. It has forced 12 fumbles.
Johnson is proud of his team.
“At about the midway point of the season we got injured players back and things started to click,” he said. “With the heart and hard work this group has put in this is where they should be (in the playoffs).”
Notre Dame’s losses came by two touchdowns to Joel Barlow and one score to Class S No. 5 seeded New Fairfield.
PLAYOFF HISTORY/LAST APPEARANCE
Notre Dame-Fairfield (1-1): lost to Ansonia, 44-14, in the 2002 Class S championship.
Cromwell/Portland (6-7 overall, 1-2 as C/P): lost to Stafford/East Windsor/Somers, 41-6, in the 2018 Class S quarterfinals.
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