Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 4, 2023

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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14 NOV. 4, 2023 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY JACK SOBLE A s he often did, No. 4 in purple and white broke the game open. On Sept. 23, 2022, then- St. Louis Christian Brothers Col- lege senior running back and Notre Dame commit Jeremiyah Love took the ball from his quarterback and saw a crease up the middle. With CBC already beating De Smet Jesuit 21-7, Love broke through the line and went off to the races, almost jog- ging to the end zone at a speed that would be a full sprint for most human beings. Love was about to put some distance between the CBC Cadets and De Smet Spartans, St. Louis' premier high school football rivalry. He occasionally turned his head to check any threats on his way to the goal line, and all of a sudden he saw the backside corner making a beeline for the ball carrier. Love had to turn on the jets a little bit and protect the ball with two hands as he reached the end zone, where he gave No. 29 in maroon and black — the only one who could catch up to him — a little shove. That was Christian Gray, another se- nior and another Notre Dame commit at the time. During Love and Gray's four years in high school, they faced each other in the regular season three times and one eliminated the other in the state playoffs in all but one year. Gray started 4-0 against Love, but Love won the last three. "It was just like throwing blows at each other," Gray said. "Because he would score, I would score, he would score, I would score. I would stop him. Then he would stop me. It would just be like that, back and forth." Despite being on opposite sides, Love and Gray became friends over the years. Thus far in their freshman seasons, it looks like the Irish found two gems out of the lower Midwest. With the time they spend together in South Bend, on and off the field, they let each other hear about their battles in high school. "Christian's always trying to say that we didn't mess him up. We just messed his team up," Love said, cracking a rare smile. "I'd say, 'You're part of the team, Christian. We did you dirty, too.' He's always trying to play about that. But it's all love." ABOVE THE REST In an area with several other power- house prep teams — St. Louis University High, Cardinal Ritter, St. Mary's and even East St. Louis on the other side of the Illinois/Missouri border — the ri- valry between De Smet and CBC stands above the rest. "That's a heated one," De Smet head coach John Merritt said. "All the kids know each other. All the coaches know each other. The two programs make up a bunch of the last champions." "It's a prototypical high school ri- valry," CBC head coach Scott Pingel said. CBC and De Smet have accounted for five of the past six state titles, with the Cadets accounting for four, including two with Love as a junior and a senior. The Spartans won when Gray was a freshman in 2019. De Smet beat CBC 42-14 and 35-14, respectively, in 2019. In 2020, the Spar- tans went 2-0 again, winning 41-21 and 54-21. But in 2021, the tables turned. Love and the Cadets put their focus that offseason on De Smet, and it paid off the next season with 33-7 and 42-7 vic- tories, as well as a state championship. "Then when it was my time to play my junior and senior years, I came in and gave Christian that work," Love said. "We blew them out two times." Love and Gray were far from the only Division-I caliber players on those teams. Love played with wide receiver Jeremiah McClellan, the No. 70 player in the 2024 Through eight games, Love was Notre Dame's second-leading rusher with 263 yards and paced the team with an average of 6.7 yards per carry. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER RIVALS TO TEAMMATES Once longtime opponents in St. Louis, Jeremiyah Love and Christian Gray look like future stars at Notre Dame

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