UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - The football gods smiled on Notre Dame Friday night as the Jugglers recovered a fumble with just over two minutes left and turned it into a game-tying touchdown and game-winning extra point to beat Little Falls 21-20.
After two Notre Dame turnovers turned a 14-6 halftime lead into a 20-14 fourth-quarter deficit, the Jugglers were staring at defeat when Little Falls got a first down with just over two minutes to play and Notre Dame was out of timeouts, putting the Mounties within range of running out the clock.
Then Notre Dame got its first miracle.
Inexplicably, Little Falls fumbled on a run at midfield, and Notre Dame recovered at the Mounties' 46-yard line with 2:12 left. The Notre Dame offense--which had been completely stagnant in the second half--suddenly woke up after that, driving inside the Little Falls red zone. But the Mounties' defense held tough at that point, forcing the Jugglers into a 4th and 13 at the 16 with 1:09 left.
Then Notre Dame got its second miracle.
Tom Appleton pulled back to pass on Notre Dame's last chance, threw for Mike Gaglianese in the end zone, and Gaglianese reeled it in as he ran out the back to tie the game at 20.
Then Notre Dame had to make the extra point.
That was made harder when a penalty forced the Jugglers back five yards, making it a 25-yard kick for Colin Pastorella. But Pastorella came through to make it 21-20 with 1:02 left, and the Notre Dame defense sealed the comeback with a 4th-down interception on Little Falls' ensuing drive.
The victory keeps Notre Dame in control of Class D East at 3-0 (3-1 overall) while Little Falls remains winless at 0-2 (0-4).
The Mounties started the scoring in the second quarter on a 6-yard touchdown run by Jake Foster. Notre Dame responded with two touchdown passes by Appleton on a 19-yard throw to Michael McCormick and a 2-yard toss to Dylan Davis, respectively, to lead at the half.
Little Falls came back in the third, turning a fumble recovery at the Notre Dame 35 into a 3-yard TD run by Foster and tying the game on a 2-point conversion, then went ahead on Notre Dame's ensuing possession in the fourth on a 29-yard interception return by Joe Spaulding.