QUINCY -- Quincy Notre Dame football coach Jack Cornell had been assured by one of his assistants the Raiders were mathematically a lock for the playoffs after reaching five victories last week.
Maybe so, but why chance it?
The Raiders eliminated the mathematical variable from the playoff equation Friday night, steamrolling Alton Marquette 48-14 at Advance Physical Therapy Field to reach six victories and guarantee themselves a return to the postseason.
"Coming from 3-6 last season and now being 6-2 going into Week 9 means everything," QND junior lineman Louie Pagliara said. "This team, this group of guys worked all offseason to be in the spot we are now. That just feels great."
It's where Cornell truly believed the Raiders would be despite last year's struggles.
"We went through growing pains and had a lot of young guys earning their stripes," said Cornell, the second-year coach whose team wraps up the regular season next week at Richmond-Burton. "Those seniors last year, I remember telling them the things they were doing were going to propel us to big, big things.
"This year is proof of that. Our guys worked incredibly hard in the offseason, incredibly hard in the preseason, incredibly hard during the week to get to this point."
Their effort remained relentless Friday night.
The Raiders (6-2) forced two turnovers in the first half and three overall, threw the Explorers for a loss nine times
"It was our pursuit," linebacker Lake Bergman said. "We pursued the ball really well and didn't allow them to cut back and pick up yards. The more we kept making those tackles, they more they struggled."
Bergman was johnny-on-the-spot multiple times early.
After forcing QND to go three-and-out on its first possession, Alton Marquette's Iggy McGee broke off a 42-yard run on the first play to reach QND territory. The Explorers drove to the 21-yard line before Bergman stepped into a passing lane in the middle of the field and intercepted a pass.
It set up a seven-play, 61-yard scoring drive in which he capped it with a 3-yard TD run.
"It was a good night, but it could have been better," Bergman said with a smile. "I wouldn't say perfect, but it was a good night."
The next three touchdowns were set up by either quality defensive or special teams plays.
A bad snap in which Marquette punter Jonah Fahnenstock had to take a knee to recovery gave QND a short field, leading to Johnny Ohnemus's 5-yard touchdown run. A 36-yard punt return by Jack Gilliland gave the Raiders another short field and Ike Wiley turned it into a 14-yard touchdown run and 21-0 lead.
Bergman forced his second turnover on the Explorers' next play, recovering a fumble at the 43-yard line. Five plays later, on third and 8, Wiley hit Grant Hyer in the back of the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown and 27-0 halftime lead.
"We've doing bits and pieces and coming close to playing complimentary football offensively and defensively," Cornell said. "I think tonight we did that as best as we've done the last several weeks."
Ohnemus kicked in the turbo clock when he scored twice in the third quarter on a 35-yard pass from Wiley and a 14-yard run. He finished with 76 yards on seven carries and 111 yards of total offense.
"During introductions when they said Johnny was one of the most athletic kids that's ever been at QND, they weren't lying," Pagliara said. "I've seen the kid do some insane things. Having someone like that run behind you is awesome."
Together, they're running right into the playoffs.
Quincy Notre Dame 48, Alton Marquette 14
11 First downs 25
26-108 Rushes-yards 35-299
45 Passing yards 133
153 Total yards 432
5-14-2 Comp-Att-Int 9-19-0
2-2 Fumbles-lost 0-0
0-0 Penalties-yards 4-35
Marquette 0 0 7 7--14
QND 7 20 14 7--48
Q--Lake Bergman 3 run (Ethan Beroiza kick), 4:28
Q--Johnny Ohnemus 2 run (Beroiza kick), 11:56
Q--Ike Wiley 14 run (Beroiza kick), 6:29
Q--Grant Hyer 18 pass from Wiley (kick failed), 5:01
Q--Ohnemus 35 pass from Wiley (Beroiza kick), 9:59
Q--Ohnemus 14 run (Beroiza kick), 1:21
M--Iggy McGee 85 kick return (Jonah Fahnenstock kick), 1:06
Q--Jerry Jacobs 9 run (Beroiza kick), 9:50
M--McGee 10 run (Fahnenstock kick), 6:27
RUSHING--Marquette, McGee 12-143, Zachary Smith 2-7, Clifford Chandler 5-(minus 1), Team 2-(minus 6), Fanhnenstock 1-(minus 12), Logan Sternickle 4-(minus 23). QND, Ohnemus 7-76, Wiley 8-70, Elliott Maas 5-43, Jacobs 3-34, Ryan Cafun 5-27, Bergman 3-19, Jack Marth 1-18, Hyer 1-12, Nolan Obert 1-1, Calvin Lavery 1-(minus 1).
PASSING--Marquette, Sternickle 4-13-31-2, Gerold Nave III 1-1-14-0. QND, Wiley 9-19-133-0.
RECEIVIGN--Marquette, McGee 3-14, Smith 2-31. QND, Hyer 4-42, Ohnemus 1-35, Ben Kasparie 1-29, Marth 1-14, Jack Gilliland 1-8, Zac Becker 1-5.