QUINCY — Troy Cornell is off the schneid. The Quincy Notre Dame football team is, too.
For the first time since his birth on September 22, the infant son of Raiders coach Jack Cornell witnessed QND set the tone with takeaways on special teams and defense, buckle down offensively in the second half and end a three-game skid with a 49-7 victory over Granite City on Friday night at Advance Physical Therapy Field.
When it was over, the three-week-old was still wide-eyed as his father held him.
“Finally,” the bearded coach said with a smile when asked about his son’s first victory.
It was needed for everyone’s psyche.
“Very, very important,” junior lineman Wilson Henning said. “Our team was in a lull, and Coach really stressed how important this game was to get out of that and get playoff eligible.”
The victory pushed the Raiders to 5-3 overall, qualifying them for postseason consideration. Next week, they travel to face Alton Marquette with a chance to eliminate any concern since no six-win team can be bumped from the playoff picture.
Yet, the playoffs weren’t the focus this week. Getting back on solid footing was the priority.
“We had to start repping right and get back on track,” senior lineman Isaac Hinkamper said. “That was our sole focus.”
Despite it being homecoming and Senior Night, the Raiders kept their focus.
“Intense,” Henning said of the full week of practice. “Coach had really high expectations. Wednesday wasn’t an amazing practice, but we brought ourselves out of it and we performed well.”
It didn’t take long to do so. Granite City was forced to punt on the game’s opening possession, and a blocked kick in the middle of the line led to Jake Wallingford scooping it up and returning it 15 yards for a touchdown. On the Warriors’ next possession, Raiders safety Zach Friedersdorf intercepted a pass and returned it 59 yards to the 2-yard line.
A penalty on Granite City moved the ball to the 1, and Ben Kasparie plunged into the end zone for a touchdown and 13-0 lead four minutes into the game.
A Jackson Stratton 25-yard touchdown run and a Kasparie 43-yard punt return for a touchdown gave the Raiders a 26-7 halftime lead. Still, no one was satisfied because the offense hadn’t clicked.
“We needed to get into a rhythm,” Cornell said. “We need to make better decisions from the quarterback spot. We need to block better up front. We need to see linebackers when they’re starting to run through. We just need to do our jobs.
“Ultimately, that’s what we came out of the locker room at halftime understanding. We had an extended half to kind of catch our breath some and refocus ourselves. We put the nail in the coffin.”
QND churned out a 5-minute, 14-second drive to start the second half, capping it with Stratton’s 7-yard TD run.
“We really talked about how we needed to get out there and get a good drive going,” Henning said. “I thought we really did that well in the second half.”
Dalton Miller caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from Calvin Lavery on the Raiders’ next possession, and he scored on a pick-6 on Granite City’s following possession, returning the interception 10 yards to make it 46-7 at the end of the third quarter.
“Anytime you can score on all three phases, you’re going to be electric,” Cornell said. “Just trying to find ways to be explosive and dynamic on all three phases is what we want to be.”
The Raiders wanted to be back in the victory column, too.
“We shot ourselves in the foot several times in the first half,” Hinkamper said. “We definitely reflected on our mistakes at halftime and realized we needed to do better. It comes down to don’t sweat the small stuff and play football. That’s what we did.”