The Notre Dame football team used a big second half, a strong defensive effort, and five turnovers to win the Green Bowl for the 14th year in a row in their 42-7 win over Hamden.
Leading 14-7 at halftime, the Green Knights scored four unanswered touchdowns, two in each quarter of the second half, to pull away for the win.
Jackson Zalinsky threw two of his four touchdown passes within 90 seconds of each other as Notre Dame scored twice late in the third quarter to break the game open.
Zalinsky, who was 9-16 for 142 yards, found Tommy Candelora on the far sideline for a 23-yard scoring strike with 2:21 left in the third quarter. For Candelora, it was his 10th touchdown reception of the season, and allowed him to record a touchdown in every game.
Hamden did not catch the ensuing kickoff, allowing Notre Dame to recover it at the Green Dragon 30-yard line. Three plays later, Zalinsky proceeded to hit Aiden Stankiewicz on a 16-yard touchdown connection and the Green Knights lead grew to 28-7 in a 74-second span.
Zalinsky punctuated his final game as a Green Knight with a two-yard touchdown run on the Green Knights next possession and Notre Dame led 35-7 with 9:27 left in the game.
The Green Knights defense, which was stout all game long, added to the final score when Robbie Oliverio returned an Isaiah Riley overthrown pass 47 yards for the game’s final score with 8:22 left in the game.
Notre Dame’s defense held a high-scoring and potent Hamden offense in check for the majority of the game, while also forcing five turnovers. Notre Dame recovered three Hamden fumbles while Michael Consorte added a second interception for the Green Knights.
“We knew we would need to play well defensively to win today and we did,” said Notre Dame head coach Joe DeCaprio. “The key to it was tackling and we tackled well. We knew we had to stop the run and that’s what we did.”
For the game, Notre Dame held Hamden to 228 total yards and nine first downs. They held the powerful Hamden ground attack to only 132 yards rushing. Chris Pigatt had five catches for 89 yards, and four carries for 16 yards. Tymell Haynes had nine carries for 59 yards to pace Hamden’s rushing attack.
After Notre Dame took a 7-0 lead on a Zalinsky to Austin Pieck touchdown pass on its first possession, Hamden tied the game with 20 seconds left in the first quarter when the electrifying and elusive Pigatt snared a Riley pass with one-hand and outraced three Green Knight defenders for an 83-yard score.
For Notre Dame, Damian Blount ran 29 times for 142 yards as the Green Knights maintained the ball for almost 30 minutes. Candelora added his 10th and 11th touchdown receptions and also scored via a fumble return against Hand, an interception return against St. Joseph’s and a kickoff return against Fairfield Prep. With his four touchdown passes, Zalinsky wound up with 23 for the season.
“I am proud of our seniors,” said Notre Dame head coach Joe DeCaprio. “We fought and we fought and battled through so many injuries and stuck together and were able to come out on top and end the season on a positive note.”
With the win, Notre Dame finishes with a 6-4 record for the second straight season. It was also the Green Knights 14th win in a row in the 69-year series. Notre Dame now holds a 46-21-2 all-time record heading into the 70th Green Bowl next year.