Monica Bennett came across the late Scot Bemis in the halls of Notre Dame Prep (Scottsdale, Ariz.)
and he had his patented smirk plastered all over his face.
She instantly knew something was afoot as he could hardly contain himself.
"Scot loved to pull off jokes and I thought he was pulling another funny," said Bennett, Notre Dame's athletic director. "He was talking about a trip to Ireland for the football team and I was like, ‘Oh, Ok. I can't wait.' "
Two years later, the wait is over.
Notre Dame Prep
and Hamilton (Chandler, Ariz.)
are in Ireland this week for The Global Ireland Football Tournament, which has been two years in the making.
Everything is in place in this one of a kind event, which includes seven U.S. high school teams, two Division III NCAA teams, two Canadian high school teams and United Kingdom all-star team, except having Bemis on the sidelines for the Saints.
"He would have been fired up for this," said Hamilton football director Dick Baniszewski, who was a few years ahead of Bemis coming through McClintock (Tempe, Ariz.). "He might not be here but his presence will be felt."
Bemis, who started the Notre Dame program in 2002 and quickly brought it to prominence with state titles in 2007 and 2008, died on Jan. 22 after battling lung cancer. He was just 45. He succumbed to the disease after it was discovered in September of 2011 through an MRI on his sore elbow.
"It was a terrible loss for our community but we continue to celebrate his life," Bennett said. "He continues to watch and guide us not just schematically, but with the culture he left behind. His motto for years was "Get after it" and that is the way we approach everything."
Notre Dame (0-1) takes on Father Judge (Philadelphia, Pa.)
, playing its first game of the year, on Friday at 7:30 p.m. (Ireland time) in at Páirc Tailteann Stadium in Brews Hill, Navan, Co. Meath.
Hamilton is also playing at 7:30 as the Huskies face Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks, Calif.)
at Parnell Park in Donnycarney, Dublin. Both teams lost their season openers last week.
The game is only a small part of the trip as the cultural experience, along with getting a chance to attend the Notre Dame-Navy game on Saturday, was too much to pass up. All of the teams will attend the Notre Dame–Navy game.
Hamilton coach Steve Belles, who was on the Irish's 1988 National Champion team, might not let his players who aren't rooting for the Irish back on the plane.
"What a great venue to see Notre Dame," Baniszewski said. "Steve Belles can't wait to see them play."
The majority of teams arrived Wednesday and immediately practiced to shake off any jet lag. Thursday will be a combination of practice for all teams at University College Dublin and sightseeing in and around Dublin.
There is then a parade and pep rally featuring all teams in Dublin City Center that evening.
The teams are staying on the outskirts of Dublin that all provide meeting room facilities and are close to teams' practice sites.
The cheerleaders and bands for both Arizona schools also made the trip. The funding for the trip was done through fundraising and tax credits with the cost estimated at $2,800 per player.
For Hamilton, the team tried to get an early jump on getting their body clocks on Ireland time by not allowing anyone to sleep on the flight to Newark that way the second leg will put them close to a normal sleeping schedule once they get to Ireland.
"We want to represent Arizona football and Hamilton High as best as we can," Baniszewski said. "While we are thrilled about taking in the culture and sites, there is a football game to be played and we want to make sure we are at our best."Jason P. Skoda, a former Arizona Republic and current Ahwatukee Foothills News staff writer, is a 18-year sports writing veteran. Contact him at email@example.com or 480-272-2449.