By MATT SCHUCKMAN
Herald-Whig Sports Editor
It could be considered commonplace for the Quincy Notre Dame football team to qualify for the playoffs.
The Raiders sure didn't act like it Friday night.
A balanced offense -- QND had 222 yards rushing and 226 yards passing -- allowed the Raiders to pull away from Pittsfield in the second half and post a 49-7 West Central Conference victory that guarantees them a spot in the playoffs for the 18th time in the last 22 years.
"It's what we do," QND senior defensive end Justin Wolf-Martin said. "It's tradition."
Even so, the Raiders (6-1, 3-0 WCC) took a little more pride in this one. They doused QND coach Bill Connell with a water cooler as the final seconds ticked away, knowing their victory in the renewal of the rivalry with Pittsfield would resonate.
"A lot of us seniors, from the videos Coach Connell showed us throughout the week, learned what this rivalry is all about," said Jordan Chapel, a senior wide receiver/defensive back who caught three touchdown passes and grabbed two interceptions. "We came together and said, ‘We have to get this thing done.'
"We proved something to the alumni, to the all the people who played in this rivalry. We knew Pittsfield was going to come in and fight. We fought more."
The Saukees forced the Raiders to show they had some fight.
QND needed just two plays to take a 7-0 lead as Chapel caught a short pass in the flat from quarterback Joe McCaughey, eluded the first tackler and darted up the left sideline for a 22-yard touchdown.
Pittsfield didn't flinch. The Saukees put together an eight-play drive that was snuffed out at the QND 40-yard line, but it proved they could move the ball.
"We made them do some things, make some adjustment that they might not like to do," said Pittsfield coach Don Bigley, whose team had a three-game winning streak. "We came up there and competed. We've gotten better the last four weeks."
Pittsfield ended up with 15 first downs and 289 yards of total offense, while senior tailback Isaac Whitaker had 123 yards rushing on 27 carries.
"Our defense bent," Connell said. "It didn't break."
Ultimately, it made plays.
It started with Barry Welper blocking a punt on the third play of the second quarter. That led to Chapel catching his second touchdown pass, a 21-yarder on third and 6.
Pittsfield answered with its lone touchdown -- a 63-yard pass from Wayde Smith to Dalton Butler -- before QND scored twice more before halftime. Daylin Anders ripped off a 35-yard scoring run, and after Chapel picked off a Smith pass, he was rewarded with a 38-yard touchdown grab.
"We turned the ball over too much," Bigley said. "That's as simple as that."
A fumble recovery by QND's Logan Schutte set up McCaughey's 6-yard scoring run, and Chapel's second interception led to Anders' second scoring run, a 16-yarder.
"The captains came together on defense and said, ‘We've had enough of this. Let's shut them down,'" Chapel said.
That sort of effort comes as no surprise to Connell.
"These guys are competitors," Connell said. "They want to score every time we get the football. They want to keep the opponent from scoring. I don't know if I've ever had as competitive a bunch of guys as what I have on this football team.
"They want to do things right. They want to do things perfect. They want to be here. They enjoy getting after people. At the end of the night, you're going to win a lot of football games if that's the case."
Bigley learned the Saukees have similar intensity.
"I felt we played hard," Bigley said. "I felt the game was closer than what the score was."