MISSION HILLS — With the seconds ticking down on Notre Dame’s 38-18 Mission League win at Alemany on Friday, Notre Dame’s players circled head coach Kevin Rooney with cheers.
The celebration grew louder at the final buzzer. Then came the Gatorade shower.
Finally, in the postgame huddle, senior Michael Whiteside presented Rooney with a jersey that summed up the historic night.
Rooney became the ninth coach in California history to reach that many wins and the third to do it solely at one school. While his players chanted his name, he put the jersey on and allowed the moment to sink in after 38 years leading the Knights.
“I didn’t play in any games, those teams did and I happened to be around for a long time,” Rooney said. “I’ve been fortunate to be with a lot of great teams, people and coaches.”
The win was also symbolic with Rooney having won his 200th game at Alemany during the Knights’ 2004 championship season.
“It’s amazing to experience it with him as a player and as a coach,” said Notre Dame assistant Jake Goossen-Brown, who was a junior on that 2004 team.
After a sluggish start and an inspired Alemany effort put Notre Dame behind 12-0, Notre Dame reaching into its bag of tricks for a spark. Noah Taylor pitched the ball to Cameron Jones, who ran right before tossing it back to Taylor for a 66-yard touchdown.
The Knights attempted an onside kick that was waved off by a penalty. They attempted it again only for it to work, setting up another touchdown by Taylor, a 4-yard run to put the Knights ahead.
Mo Johnson added to the lead by intercepting Jared Heywood and returning it for a touchdown. Cam Sharafatian kicked a 30-yard field goal just before halftime for a 24-12 lead.
Alemany started the game with a safety by Shane Morton and a 40-yard field goal. Charles Lott Jr. scored on a 2-yard run in the second quarter.
The touchdown lifted Alemany’s spirits after seeing running back Jaylen Sargent leave the field on a golf cart with an injury. Per a source, Sargent suffered a broken leg and will likely miss the rest of the season.
It was the latest injury the Warriors have suffered this season. Starting quarterback Tripp Mitchell remained out with a concussion while running back William Camacho and leading tackler Christian Moore are also out.
Alemany got a late touchdown by Zachary Garcia in the third quarter. Notre Dame’s Tommy Cantrell had an interception and Brenden O’Connor recovered a fumble. Malachi Meeks and Christian Grubb also rushed for second half touchdowns of 2 and 12 yards, respectively.
The only damper for Notre Dame was that Taylor left the the game in the third quarter with a right leg injury and did not return. Yet it was a night to remember as players, parents and school administrators celebrated Rooney, a man who simply enjoys his job and enjoys teaching young men character values he lives by.
“It’s history. That man is one of the greatest coaches in California history,” Jones said.
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