Notre Dame coach Charles Fant preached throughout the season about winning the day.
Notre Dame won the night.
The Fighting Irish mashed Hixson 31-6 in the opening round of the Class 4A playoffs at Jim Eberle Field on Friday night.
"We don't talk about winning a region or anything. We talk about winning the day," Fant said. "Whether it's a practice, a game or a workout, just win the day and get better."
Hixson (7-4) ended its season with the first playoff game for every player on the roster.
"This is where want to be every year," coach Jason Fitzgerald said. "This is the level the seniors set."
Sophomore running back Auston Banks rushed for 140 yards and two touchdowns for the Irish (9-2), and classmate Kareem Orr ran for 79 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries. Add in 77 yards from senior fullback Taylor Bankston with a few other runs, and the Irish gained 297 yards on 46 carries after freshman starter Ricky Ballard injured his ankle on the team's first snap.
"I don't think we caught them by surprise," Bankston said. "They knew what was coming."
Fant said Ballard suffered a mild ankle sprain and could have played if necessary. But Banks, Orr and Bankston (the B.O.B. offense) carried the load.
"We learned early that running was a good option," quarterback Alex Darras said. "We thought it would work, and it did."
The Irish defense more than did its job. Notre Dame forced two turnovers and limited Hixson to 79 rushing yards and a total of 144 yards.
"We were getting beat up front," Fitzgerald said. "That's something we're going to have to work on in the offseason."
Notre Dame linebacker Keeley Green crawled on all fours before covering the ball at the Hixson 35-yard line midway through the first quarter.
Banks then rushed five straight plays, including a 20-yarder, and capped the drive with a powerful 5-yard run through the left side. Darras added the kick for a 7-0 lead with 18 seconds to go in the first quarter.
Hixson and Notre Dame traded field position before the Irish went on a 12-play drive, including a fourth-down conversion, with Darras booting a 25-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead with 4:34 to go in the first half.
Hixson had a perfect start to the second half. Kedrick Bradley forced a fumble on Notre Dame's first snap. Quarterback Gill Brown completed a 35-yard pass to K.J. Yates and Isaiah Robinson scored on a 2-yard run two plays later. Brown was sacked on the conversion.
"We knew that if we didn't put it in the end zone right away we'd be in a dogfight," Fant said. "We went to our hurry-up offense."
The drive covered 65 yards, included a negated interception and a personal-foul penalty, and ended with Orr scoring from 5 yards out.
Banks added a 42-yard touchdown run on third-and-24, and Orr scored again from 7 yards out in the fourth quarter.
"We've got three guys who can really run the ball," Fant said. "And a couple big guys up front like Joe Dossett and Grayson Hargett."
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...