Coming off three remarkable seasons in which current USC freshman Garrett Green led Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks to a 35-game winning streak which included two CIF Southern Section Div. III titles, the key to the Knights' 2006 season was the play of Green's replacement at quarterback, junior Dayne Crist. He played well in a few games last season in which Green missed due to injury, but he and his Notre Dame teammates faced a daunting task trailing 17-3 at halftime against Canyon of Canyon Country, the No. 13 team in the Student Sports FAB 50 National Rankings.
There was no doubt Notre Dame returned some fine athletes on its roster and Crist connected twice with perhaps the school's finest one down the stretch. Mike Stanton, a three-sport standout who turned heads on the diamond at last month's Area Code Games in Long Beach, showed he's also a big-time player on the grid-iron when he pulled in a 30-yard touchdown pass from Crist with one minute remaining in the game to pull the Knights within one point, 17-16. The 6-foot-5 Stanton then capped the comeback by hauling in the two-point conversion to give Notre Dame the 18-17 win.
Notre Dame also showed it has athletes on the defensive side of the ball led by Shane Horton, who came up with two interceptions and aided in limiting Canyon standout running back J.J. DiLuigi to 73 yards on 18 carries and no scores.
"The defense stepped up big time," Shane Horton told the Los Angeles Times. "Our main goal was to stop DiLuigi."
With the win Notre Dame (1-0) shows it could be a team to be reckoned with in the newly formed Serra League that includes Crespi of Encino, Bishop Amat of La Puente and Loyola of Los Angeles. If Crist plays well enough to compliment Notre Dame's stable of athletes, the Knights could also be a factor in the ultra-tough CIF Southern Section Pac-5 playoffs.
Canyon (1-1) has to quickly regroup because they host preseason No. 4 and nationally-ranked St. Bonaventure of Ventura next week. The Seraphs have been impressive in their first two games with wins over Hart of Newhall (34-0) and St. Paul of Santa Fe Springs (36-6). Canyon, meanwhile, might not fall too far in the state rankings picture if Notre Dame keeps winning (they face Lynwood next week) and because the Moorpark team they beat week zero might surprise some people just like Notre Dame did. Moorpark handed Hart its second straight loss, 42-24, on Friday night.
Most prep football fanatics will be looking for St. Bonaventure, the defending state team of the year, to hand Canyon its second straight loss next week to set up the monster game with preseason state No. 3 Oaks Christian in two weeks. The Lions will likely enter that game ranked No.2 in the state (they have a timely bye next week) and St. Bonaventure will likely be sitting in the No. 3 spot this week heading in to the tussle with Canyon.
A St. Bonaventure loss next week would dampen the electric atmosphere surrounding the big game at Larrabee Stadium in Ventura two weeks from now. Regardless, Oaks Christian will definitely be facing its toughest challenge in the Jimmy Clausen-Marc Tyler era. Two undefeated teams would be an ideal scenario since a St. Bonaventure loss to Canyon could mean the rankings picture for those two teams the rest of the year could hinge on the outcome of Notre Dame's season.
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