Peoria Notre Dame football plays 'statement game' to clinch playoff spot, beating Manual

Dave Eminian
Journal Star

PEORIA — Notre Dame burst into the IHSA playoff field in dominating style Friday with a 53-14 victory over Manual in a Big 12 Conference game at Peoria Stadium.

That pushed Class 4A No. 10-ranked Notre Dame to 6-2 overall and 6-1 in conference play, officially clinching a playoff spot for the 10th straight season.

"It's the most complete game we've played," Notre Dame coach Pat Armstrong said. "The message for the week was attention to details, do the little things, finish things.

"We're hungry. We want to come out ready (for Peoria High next week and the playoffs beyond)."

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Notre Dame senior running back Will Ludolph and senior defensive back Alex Osmulski were certainly among those ready.

Ludolph finished with 10 carries for 147 yards and three touchdowns, plus a 35-yard TD catch before yielding to the Irish depth.

"It was a statement game for us," Ludolph said. "We got out here and blew them up. In a game like this, we wanted to stay calm and finish it the right way.

"We created holes with our line, so love goes to (offensive linemen) Jack Sager, Angelo Hightower, Mike McLaughlin, Mikkel Flores, James Hodskins, those guys deserve to have their names out there."

Peoria Notre Dame's William Ludolph is tackled by Manual's Chance Smith in the first half on Friday, Oct. 15, 2021 in Peoria Stadium. Peoria Notre Dame defeated Manual 53-14.

Osmulski certainly made a name for himself at defensive back. While his twin brother, Brady, played quarterback, Alex Osmulski picked off two passes. He has eight interceptions in the last four games, including three against Normal West, one against Danville, two against Bloomington and two more Friday against Manual.

"It's like the ball is coming right to me," Osmulski said. "My coaches are putting me in the right position.

"We're heading to the playoffs. We have to get ready for (Peoria High) next week and stay focused."

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Manual is 0-8 overall and 0-7 in conference play. Trailing 47-0 at halftime, the Rams opened the second half with a 77-yard catch and bolt down the left sideline for a touchdown by senior B.J. Cranford.

Peoria Notre Dame’s Jack Sager passes cheering Fighting Irish fans after Peoria Notre Dame defeated Manual 53-14 on Friday, Oct. 15, 2021 in Peoria Stadium.

Notre Dame opened the game with a 33-yard scoring run from Mark Anyanwu for 8-0.

The Irish got a 3-yard TD run from Ludolph for 16-0 with 4:09 left. Defensive back Joe Mushinsky then scooped up an errant pitchout in the right flat and cruised 39 yards for a TD at 3:48, and Ludolph blasted 49 yards for a touchdown and 28-0 lead with 1:42 still left in the first quarter.

Ludolph added a 35-yard TD catch and 29-yard TD run in the second quarter, while Charlie Dawson powered in from the 1 to send Notre Dame to halftime up 47-0.

Quarterback Brady Osmulski scored on a 32-yard keeper for 53-6.

The Irish cleared the decks, and nine different players carried the ball on a game-ending 15-play drive.

Short yardage

Notre Dame quarterback Evan Elward returned to action after missing the previous two games with a concussion. He started and played linebacker, but did not play at quarterback. Bradley Osmulski handled the QB duties. ... Manual's top player, running back Tristen White, was on crutches with a broken ankle he suffered two games ago. ... Notre Dame sophomore running back Elisha Gilbert came off the bench in mop-up time on the final drive and turned in an impressive bit of hard running for 30 yards on five carries. ... Notre Dame coach Pat Armstrong, on Manual: "We looked at them on film and they make good plays. When they figure out they have good athletes they'll continue to improve." ... Notre Dame sits in a tie for second place in the Big 12 Conference with Normal West and Peoria High, all at 6-1. Normal Community (8-0, 7-0) is first.

Dave Eminian is the Journal Star sports columnist, and covers Bradley men's basketball, the Rivermen and Chiefs. He writes the Cleve In The Eve sports column for pjstar.com. Reach him at 686-3206 or deminian@pjstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @icetimecleve.