Notre Dame Prep will unveil ‘Scot Bemis Field’ tonight

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                </div>  I was lucky to get to know Scot Bemis during the years I spent coaching girls basketball at Notre Dame Prep. Most people who got to know the gregarious young football […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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I was lucky to get to know Scot Bemis during the years I spent coaching girls basketball at Notre Dame Prep. Most people who got to know the gregarious young football coach and science teacher have their own fond memories because he was something special.

Bemis was just 45 years old when he passed away on January 22 of 2012, a victim of lung cancer, but he had enough time during his short-lived coaching career at Notre Dame to win a couple of state championships – back-to-back titles in 2007 and 2008 – and establish himself as one of the rising young stars in the coaching ranks.

He won just one game the first year he started the program, and three the next year.  It wasn’t long, however, before the Saints were competing with other 4A schools that were much bigger and had established programs.

But his ability to connect with young players and build winning programs transcended football.  Bemis also took on coaching the girls’ soccer team and won a state title in that sport in 2009.

And now his legacy will live on in the new football field that has been constructed at Notre Dame in north Scottsdale and named in his honor.  That just seems like poetic justice since during the years that Bemis served as the school’s first head coach, he didn’t have a field to call his own.

When it opened in 2002, the small Catholic school took over facilities left behind when a charter school closed at the site on Bell Road and 97th Street.  The school built a gym and added a chapel, but the budget wouldn’t accommodate an expenditure as grandiose as a football field.

Now the Saints will be playing on a new state-of-the art field that will be christened at tonight’s home opener against Sunnyslope High School.  Scot Bemis Field will have artificial turf and the latest in LED stadium lighting, with a digital video scoreboard for the fans.  The custom seating in the home-team grandstand has been colored to spell out “NDP”.

Scot would have been proud to be a part of this project.

The wins have been harder to come by since Bemis ran the program.  There has been just one winning season, a 6-4 record in 2013, during three years under head coach Gary Gregory, who picked up the mantle when Bemis became too ill to coach any more.  This season, Mark Nolan has taken the reins and has the team at 2-2.

This season’s first win came in the opener when the Saints beat Tolleson High, using two quarterbacks to pile up 328 yards of offense in a game in which Tolleson gave them all the help they could by getting flagged for 16 penalties that cost the Wolverines 116 yards.

They hit a rough patch after that, losing the next two games before beating Thunderbird last week, 27-19.

But Sunnyslope has the potential to be the party-crasher for the christening of Bemis Field.  The Vikings are 3-1 on the season, with the only loss coming at the hands of Paradise Valley High School, the top-ranked team in Division III.  In its three wins, Sunnyslope has outscored its opponents by a combined score of 86-22.

It will be a big test for the Saints, the kind that Coach Bemis would have relished.

A memorial fund was set up shortly after Scot’s death, giving the community a chance to provide financial help to his wife. Melissa, and their four children.  The family had little time to prepare after an MRI found a cancerous tumor just four months before Scot succumbed to the disease.

That show of support was much-needed at the time.  This latest honor, I’m sure, will be much appreciated as well.

Bemis won the last game he coached before the illness forced him to take a leave of absence, a 31-6 victory over Goldwater High School on Sept. 16 of 2011.

He went out on top… and that was only fitting for a guy who loved the game, and the kids, as much as Scot did.