It wasn't exactly divine intervention, but an inadvertent whistle was more than enough inspiration for Notre Dame High in its 31-13 victory over Serra in a Mission League opener Friday night.
With Notre Dame (6-0) leading by eight points midway through the third quarter, Knight quarterback Ryan Bowne was hit by Jason Steen as he threw a pass. The pass was intercepted by Aka Umoh and returned 45 yards deep into Notre Dame territory.
But an official blew his whistle sometime between the time Bowne was hit and when the ball fell into Umoh's hands.
The officials ordered the down replayed, giving the ball back to the Knights.
"I really thought they would get the ball where they made the interception," Notre Dame Coach Kevin Rooney said. "We caught a big break."
Three plays later, Alvan Arzu scored from two yards and gave Notre Dame a 22-7 lead.
"The official said he blew the whistle because he was trying to keep the QB from being roughed," Serra Coach Charles Nash said. "He was being sacked. What are you supposed to do? That changed the whole game."
On Notre Dame's next possession, Bowne (14 of 21, 203 yards) threw a seven-yard scoring pass to Troy Garner (five receptions, 72 yards), giving the Knights a 28-7 lead.
Serra cut the score to 28-13 halfway through the fourth quarter on a one-yard run by Brice Montgomery.
Notre Dame's Steve Lee added a 32-yard field goal with about four minutes to play for the final score.
The Knights started strongly, with a 65-yard, six-play drive, culminating in a two-yard dive by Justin Fargas barely three minutes into the game.
Notre Dame held Serra (3-3) to three plays on its first possession. After an exchange of punts, Serra took over on its six-yard line. It would be a while before Notre Dame would see the ball again.
The Cavaliers milked the clock with a 20-play, 94-yard drive that lasted more than 13 minutes.
Serra converted two fourth-and-one plays and finally scored on a one-yard sneak by Darnell Lacy.
"That was horrible," Rooney said. "I hoped we wouldn't have to go through that again."
Notre Dame drove to the the Serra 14 shortly before halftime but a fumble by Arzu was recovered by Steen.