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CURRENT STORIES


notre dame's week off for web

by Mike Nutter

SPORTS WRITER

CLARKSBURG -- Ask Notre Dame coach Sam Alvaro the reasons for his team's 3-0 start and the answers are as numerous as the yardage and points the Irish are putting up at a record-setting pace.

But rather than talk about the previous three games in which Notre Dame has outscored its opponents, 128-0, he'll tell you more about what his team has to do to win its fourth.

As hard as he tries to deflect the attention the Irish have brought on themselves, it's hard not to take notice of the team's start.

"We've still got some big games coming up," Alvaro said. "We'll know more about how good we are after this. The main thing right now is to keep the kids focused on what they've been doing."

And the bottom line is winning -- big.

Not once have the Irish been threatened this season. While the offense has put up 52, 41 and 35 points, the defense has yet to allow a team gain more than 200 yards of total offense and has forced 10 turnovers which has the team in a log jam as one of six tied for No. 10 in the state football ratings.

"That's still the heart and soul of this team," Alvaro said of his defense, which returned eight starters from last year. "Our guys up front have been so strong for us this year. That's where it starts."

Where it ends is hopefully in the postseason, somewhere Notre Dame hasn't been to since the mid '80s. But that isn't being mentioned yet.

The Irish were idle this week and prepare for a crucial stretch of the season. Coming up are consecutive games on the road against Class A No. 3 St. Marys (3-0) and No. 10 Parkersburg Catholic (3-0) -- two teams that beat Notre Dame last season by a combined 81-0.

Alvaro said the team spent the week healing some minor injuries and going back over the fundamentals.

"These kids are very intelligent," Alvaro said. "Some kids, you can stand up here and tell them that one team is better than what they really might be, but you can't with this bunch. They know, but it doesn't matter with them. They bring the same intensity to every practice and to every game. They're always ready to play.

"Not once have they come out not mentally ready to play. This is a big part of our schedule. We'll see how we come out of it."

Heading into the game, junior quarterback Tyler Musgrave has completed 17 of 23 passes for 307 yards and five touchdowns to no interceptions. Last year through three games, Musgrave completed just 14 of 43 attempts for 182 yards, one TD and four interceptions.

Senior Trey Simmerman leads all Harrison County backs with 398 yards and six touchdowns on 57 carries, and transfer Josh Johnson has caught 10 passes for 192 yards and three touchdowns.

"One of the biggest things we stressed coming into this season was to take better care of the football," Alvaro said. "We had way too many turnovers last year that really took us out of some games. This year, Tyler is making better decisions and that comes with being in an offense for a year.

"But the biggest surprise has been the team unity. They're not worried about whose picture is in the paper or what they see. All they care about is winning."

Sports writer Mike Nutter can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at mnutter@exponent-telegram.com