Irish cruise to Niagara Bowl victory
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish senior football team rode the powerful running of Tal Ibrahim and Marshall McCray to an impressive 36-7 victory over the A.N. Myer Marauders in the Niagara Bowl Thursday night at Kiwanis Field in St. Catharines.
Quarterback McCray, the most punishing runner in Niagara high school football, scored three touchdowns on the night but it was 12B running back Ibrahim who did most of the heavy lifting. The 18-year had 18 carries for 149 yards and scored two touchdowns as part of a most impressive performance.
Notre Dame’s plan all along was to put the game in Ibrahim’s hands and feet.
“I told him we were going to run the ball with him and he better be ready,” Notre Dame head coach Tim Bisci said. “I just thought we could be physical with them.”
Ibrahim was the perfect choice to lead that physicality.
“He is tough as nails,” Bisci said. “His yards after contact are unbelievable. You look at him and he is not the biggest of kids but he starts running the ball and he bounces and spins through and it’s like ‘Where did he come from?’ It is second and five and he gets 15.”
When Ibrahim was told early in the week he would be carrying the load against Myer, he was up for the challenge.
“I was just motivated this game” the former Team Ontario member said. “Myer is a powerhouse and they were ranked No. 2 (in Ontario) so I was ready and very excited.”
The 5-foot-8, 175-pounder comes by his powerful running honestly.
“It is working hard in the offseason and being a beast. I have a trainer, David Pow, and he helped me out a lot.”
Ibrahim felt his entire team came ready to play.
“Our offensive line executed perfectly and our defence played amazing. We all came together in this game.”
He is looking forward to next week’s Southern Ontario Secondary Schools Association Bowl against Westmount.
“If we come out and play like we did tonight, we are going to win.”
Myer head coach Dave Buchanan has always been impressed with Ibrahim.
“I think he is underrated,” he said. “He is a little bit quicker than what people think, he is stronger than he looks, he has a good lean and great vision.”
Myer’s game plan was to not let McCray or the deep pass beat it.
“None of those did but they ran the ball on us really well,” Buchanan said. “But we didn’t do the defence any favours today offensively. We kept giving them the ball back and not getting anything together. Usually we are on the other side of that and today we weren’t.”
The running of Ibrahim and McCray was only part of a dominating performance by the entire Notre Dame roster.
“The kids bought in this week, they prepared, we were meeting at lunch time, we watched film all week and one kid said I know their offence better than I know our own,” Bisci said. “We just kept preparing and looking at what they did and I haven’t slept for a week. I have been constantly watching film to get prepared for it.”
Notre Dame’s performance was a whole other level better than what the team showed in a 30-8 win last week over Saint Paul in the Niagara Catholic Athletic Association championship game.
“If you look back to 2019, we played the NCAA championship game and we took a ton of penalties and we should have put Saint Mike’s away early but we let them hang around,” Bisci said. “We were so undisciplined and we came back the next week and play more of our brand against Myer.
“Today we were big, strong and physical and we beat them up.”
They were good up and down the lineup.
“Our offensive and defensive lines played really well and we put in a whole new defensive system and we started blitzing from all over the place,” he said. “I think we confused them with what we had done and things worked out.”
Notre Dame’s defence batted down five pass attempts by Myer quarterback Drake Somerville and gave him little time to throw the ball.”
“It was a great effort by the players, coaches and everybody,” Bisci said.
Buchanan gave Notre Dame full credit for the win.
“They were the better team tonight,” he said. “We started off slow and we could not do that. We did the same thing the last time we played them and if we had an opportunity to get ahead it might have been a different game.”
Myer’s offensive performance took a blow on the first play of the game when slotback and linebacker Quin Douglas was injured.
“Quin is our biggest offensive threat and arguably our best player. That hurt the kids, their mindset and maybe their belief a little bit,” Buchanan said. “But at the end of the day there were things open and we had some drops and we had problems on the offensive line figuring protection out.”
Myer’s coach saw Notre Dame control the line of scrimmage all night.
“When you don’t control the line of scrimmage you are generally not going to come out a winner.”
Somerville had little time to work his magic.
“Their scheme was a good and they have good coaching,” Buchanan said. “Tim is a good coach and they know how to attack us well and someday we will figure it out. We will and we will be on the other side of this.”
Myer continues giving itself chances to be on the other side and has now been on the losing end of four straight Niagara Bowls.
“Our formula is pretty good and I do believe in it and I believe we work harder than anyone else at least in the rep game,” Buchanan said. “Our players are going to understand moving forward that a weight room is important as well. We need to do a better job of that because we have been fighting an undersized game the last few years. Everyone sees that and it is no excuse but we have some size coming up.”
Irish 36 Marauders 7
Cat’s Caboose Player of the Game: Notre Dame running back Tal Ibrahim with 18 carries for 149 yards and TD runs of six and 30 yards.
For the Notre Dame Fighting Irish: Ibrahim, two TDs; Marshall McCray, TD runs of one, 10 and 13 yards; Anthony Battista, tackle in end zone for safety; fumble recovery by Brian Mauvais; interception by Adrian D’Gyves.
For the A.N. Myer Marauders: one-yard TD run by Alex Walters; fumble recovery by Jack Hunter-French; sack by Josh Horton.
Game stats: Net offence: ND 328, ANM 138. First downs: ND 14, ANM 5. Turnovers: ND 2, ANM 6. Penalties: ND 9 for 80 yards, ANM 6 for 65 yards.
Up next: Notre Dame advances to the SOSSA Bowl Thursday at Saint Paul against Westmount.
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