For 39 years, Kevin Rooney of Sherman Oaks Notre Dame has been the rock many turn to when the going gets tough. He had never missed a football game as head coach until Friday night. Players were told Rooney needed to be with his wife, Maureen, who has been seriously ill. Family comes first, and his players and coaching staff were determined to take away any added worries for a man who has helped and comforted so many through the years.
Joe McNab, Rooney’s top assistant for 38 years, served as head coach for the first time in a Mission League regular-season final game against West Hills Chaminade. McNab, wearing a red Notre Dame hat, ran the defense, and Bucky Brooks, a former NFL player, called the offense.
“We wanted to play hard for coach Rooney,” McNab said.
Thanks to the contributions of senior speedster Christian Grubb, the Knights (7-3, 4-1) rolled to a 52-24 victory over Chaminade and claimed second in the Mission League behind La Puente Bishop Amat. The Knights look ready to make a strong Southern Section Division 2 title run.
Grubb broke open a 14-7 halftime lead by sprinting 54 yards for a touchdown to open the third quarter, then returning a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown. He finished with 108 yards rushing and three touchdowns.
The Mission League 100 meters champion is following in the Notre Dame tradition of Justin Fargas, Rodney Glass and Khalfani Muhammad, track champions who were outstanding running backs. Grubb had six touchdowns last week in a win over Mission Hills Alemany.
“I’ve been practicing on my vision and my running,” Grubb said of his late-season development. “My line has been opening holes for me.”
Notre Dame’s defense made four interceptions, with McKel Broussard and Sean Guyton returning interceptions 36 and 35 yards, respectively, for touchdowns. Broussard also had a 32-yard touchdown run.
Despite the loss, Chaminade (4-6, 2-3) has earned a Division 1 playoff spot as the third-place team from the Mission League after winning a coin flip. Ryan Stevens passed for three touchdowns and linebacker Blake Antzoulatos had an interception and caught a 72-yard touchdown pass
The Knights opened a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. A 72-yard pass reception by Broussard set up a three-yard touchdown run by Grubb. Then Broussard, the son of UCLA assistant basketball coach Duane Broussard, returned his interception 36 yards for a touchdown.
Chaminade cut the deficit to 14-7 before halftime on a 10-yard touchdown reception by Jonah Burton.
Afterward, Notre Dame players were joking with McNab, calling him “Luke Walton” for being 1-0 as the interim coach, similar to what Walton did as a brief replacement for Steve Kerr with the Golden State Warriors.
McNab was appreciative but said his prayers and thoughts are with Rooney.
“I’m choked up over it,” he said.