Notre Dame Prep’s football program is preparing to open the 2020 season in style, as the Saints will travel nearly 5,000 miles across the world to Dublin, Ireland.
“It’s an amazing opportunity and we recognize how blessed we are to be in this position,” Notre Dame coach George Prelock said. “It’s exciting. Besides football, there’s a lot of aspects culturally our students will be able to learn.
“It’s going to be one of those experiences where you learn a lot by being there.”
Notre Dame will take part in the Dublin High School Football Showcase, which is part of the Aer Lingus College Football Classic featuring the University of Notre Dame and Navy. This will be the fourth time the event has taken place and organized by Global Football.
The first of such events took place back in 2012, where Notre Dame played and beat Father Judge from Philadelphia, Penn.
On Wednesday, Global Football announced Notre Dame would take on Fenwick High School from Oak Park, Ill. Kent School from Kent, Conn. and Community School of Naples in Florida will also play in the showcase.
The Friars went 6-5 last season and lost in the first round of the Class 5A Illinois football playoffs. Notre Dame lost in the semifinals to Campo Verde this season to finish the season 11-2. It was the first time in two years the Saints did not reach the 5A title game.
According to Notre Dame Prep assistant coach Matt Rylski, the Saints’ first trip to Ireland in 2012 manifested from the relationship formed between former Hamilton coach Steve Belles and former Notre Dame coach Scot Bemis. Belles, a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, informed Bemis about Global Football’s efforts to bring high school teams across the Atlantic to Dublin for a once-in-a-lifetime experience playing in a foreign country.
“They really wanted two Arizona teams and it worked out because we were able to travel with them and set up our schedules,” Rylski said. “Coach Bemis thought because we were named Notre Dame and the university was going to be there we had to go.
“The sad part about it is coach Bemis passed between the time we started planning it and when we went.”
Bemis died in 2012 after a battle with lung cancer. During his tenure at Notre Dame, he led the Saints to two state titles in back-to-back years, 2007 and 2008.
While he wasn’t able to make the first trip with the Saints to Ireland in 2012, Rylski said it was an honor to represent the program he had built into a power before he passed. He and Prelock expect to once again honor him in August.
“I know he is smiling down when he sees how far we’ve come,” Prelock said. “He really built this thing from nothing. He would be happy to see us be invited back and carry on his traditions.”
This upcoming trip to Dublin was in the works for months leading up to the official announcement. University of Notre Dame alums with ties to the prep school in Scottsdale helped initiate conversations of the Saints’ return.
Notre Dame Prep administration was then approached by Global Football, which asked if they would be interested yet again.
“We introduced it to some of our parents in the spring,” Platt said. “We asked if they had this opportunity would they want their boys to take advantage of it. They all wanted to make it happen.”
Travel plans are still in the works, but the team already has a general idea of what will take place when they arrive in Dublin. The days leading up to the Saints’ game against Fenwick will include visits to cultural sights in Dublin, such as cathedrals and other well-known landmarks.
The teams will be involved in a parade to commemorate the games. If it’s anything like the last time Notre Dame was in Ireland, that alone will be a special moment for the players.
“They said they felt like kings being introduced,” Platt said of Notre Dame’s last visit to Dublin. “They fill the streets and they have signs for the high school football teams. It’s a big deal.”
On Saturday, the teams will fill Aviva Stadium in Dublin to watch the University of Notre Dame take on Navy.
Platt said Global Football has put together travel packages to make it affordable for every player and member of the pom and cheer teams to make the trip to Ireland.
“Ultimately, at the end of the day, no player gets left behind,” Platt said. “We will make sure everyone has an opportunity to go.”
Both games at the Dublin High School Football Showcase will take place at Energia Park on Friday, Aug. 28. Kickoff times are expected to be announced at a later date.