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Scares, upsets plague top playoff seeds

By TOM DORWART, JOHN EVERETT, ABBY RICHARDSON and RAMA GOTTUMUKKALA | Tuesday, November 2, 2004

In a physical, defensively dominated first half, the No. 8 Morrissey Manorites looked poised to hand the No. 1 Keenan Knights their first loss and an early exit from the playoffs. But the Knights quelled Morrissey’s upset bid with a 7-0 victory.”We were a few plays away [from beating Keenan],” Morrissey captain Aaron Ronsheim said.Keenan made a strong push in the second half after a scoreless first 24 minutes Sunday at Stepan fields in the first round of the playoffs.”We realized if we didn’t play a good second half, we’d be turning in our pads that afternoon,” Keenan captain Patrick Downey said. “It was a good motivator. We turned up the intensity.”The revved up Knights forced and recovered a Morrissey fumble at the Keenan 36-yard line. Downey knew his team needed some more firing up.He called a trick play. Keenan quarterback Eric Laumann rifled a 7-yard pass to wide receiver Danny Zenker who flipped the ball to Reed Langton. Langton gained another nine yards.”It got people into the game,” Downey said. “That’s what I wanted. We needed to call something to get us sparked. It woke us up a little bit and got everybody into the game.”The drive went on.Running back Alex Staffieri barreled his way into the end zone from 20-yards out with 1:20 remaining in the third quarter for the game’s only score.”He was hurt all week,” Downey said. “We weren’t sure if he was going to be able to play. He came through for us.”The Keenan defense took over from there.Morrissey threatened with nearly seven minutes left in the game, when quarterback Pete Sprietzer dropped back to pass from the 18-yard line, but Keenan defensive back Mark Munninghoff picked off the pass in the end zone.”Luckily, we just came up with a big play,” Downey said. “It was one of those bend but don’t break situations. It came to fourth down. We needed to make a play, and we made one.”With 4:15 left to play, Keenan defender Jon Wood sealed the game with another interception off Knight.”We were obviously disappointed,” Morrissey running back Nick Klein said. “We thought we played them tough. [But] they are a good team. They work hard.””I think they’ll be in the stadium,” Ronsheim said.After falling in a semifinal match up last year, the Knights aren’t satisfied with simply an appearance.”We were here last year. We’re in the same spot,” Downey said. “This is where we got bounced last year. Hopefully the way we played in the first half serves as a wake up call.”

No. 7 Knott 10, No. 2 Carroll 6Knott overcame turnovers and penalties to upset Carroll and advance into the Interhall semifinals.After a fumble ended Knott’s first drive prematurely, the Juggs defense – as it would throughout the game – picked up the slack and held tight. Time after time, when Carroll threatened, the Knott defense came through.Justen Cheers had a sack, and the defensive backs came up big, as well. Carroll’s defense also played effectively, and it appeared for a while that neither team would score. This changed when Knott quarterback Justin Gillett, who passed for over 130 yards on the day, found Willie Patrick in the corner of the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown pass. The extra point made it 7-0 Knott.With little time remaining in the first half, the Juggs drove downfield in a furious attempt to tack on to their lead. A 29-yard pass to Matt O’Connor put Knott on the 6-yard line and allowed Eric Wooldridge to kick a 23-yard field goal as the first half expired to put Knott up 10-0.The Carroll offense tried to respond in the second half and relied primarily on the arm and legs of quarterback Kory Wilmot. In the second half, the Carroll offense mounted a sustained drive that – with the benefit of several Knott penalties – put the ball on the Knott 2-yard line with time running out in the third quarter. At that point, the Knott coaches felt officiating became an issue. Throughout the game the Knott coaching staff was upset by the referee’s performance. The Juggs questioned several penalty calls. For the game, Knott was penalized five times for 50 yards.On the final play of the third quarter, Wilmot tried to break through the line for a touchdown and was apparently stopped in the backfield. But the referee spotted the ball with a gain of a half-yard. On the next play, the Vermin scored their first touchdown, but missed the extra point. Knott sealed its victory when Patrick picked off a Wilmot pass late in the fourth quarter.

No. 5 Siegfried 7No. 4 Fisher 0Siegfried and Fisher battled hard Sunday, but the Ramblers pulled out a close call over the Green Wave, 7-0.”Every time we play Fisher it’s a battle,” said Siegfried captain John Hughes. “They knew what to look for. We are just two teams that know each other pretty well.”The first half of the game was scoreless. as both gave up an interception, and both fell just short of a touchdown.”[Fisher] threw a lot more passes,” Hughes said. “We had to prepare for that. Our coach prepared our defense well.”In the second half, Siegfried scored the only points of the game on a Steve Uphaus pass to wide receiver Johnny Kaup for the touchdown. The extra attempt was good, and the score was 7-0. It would stay there.”The wind was blowing. It makes it tough to throw the ball,” Hughes said about Uphaus’s performance. “He had a couple of nice scrambles too.”Kaup had an interception, as well. Fisher also had an interception on its own five-yard line to prevent a first half Siefried score.Other Siegfried players who played well were offensive and defensive linemen Eric Cherney and Kevin Phipps, as did guard/linebacker Kyle Reis.”[Reis] played a great game as linebacker,” Hughes said.Fisher played hard in the game and had a good season. They finished with a 3-1 regular season record before losing to Siegfried.Siegfried will face Keenan at 1 p.m. on Sunday.”Next week is a big game,” Hughes said. “They’ve been playing good all year. They are not anything we can’t handle. We’re ready to kick [butt]. We have some of the best guys in the league. We’ve been in the stadium every year I’ve been here.”

No. 6 Alumni 7, No. 3 Dillon 6Alumni didn’t need a third try as the second time proved to be the charm in their 7-6 win against Dillon. It was the second straight week that the two teams faced off. While last week’s game ended in a 6-6 tie, it was Alumni who snatched away a close victory against their rivals this time.”Obviously, we would have liked to beat them both times,” Alumni captain A.J. Remen said. “Any time you beat Dillon, it’s always sweet. The rivalry is always big because you have friends that are on Dillon’s team but during the game, they’re not your friends. It was definitely a sweet win today, no doubt about it.”In the first half, Dillon looked dominant as their option offense picked up huge chunks of yardage against a porous Alumni defense. The Big Red took the early lead with a rushing touchdown that put them up 6-0, a lead they were able to hold until early in the forth quarter.”Their option and their wing offense is probably the best in the league, and they do a really good job at trying to confuse the defense,” Remen said. “Their line did a really good job at sealing off and making holes for the running backs.”But key defensive plays brought Alumni storming back into the game. Pat Higgins recovered a costly Dillon fumble at the end of the third quarter near the Dillon 20-yard line. Using the good field position to their advantage, Alumni freshman quarterback Brent Locey threw a five-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Ryan McGettigan, and Andrew Breslin kicked the extra point to put the Dawgs ahead.”Our defense has played hard all year,” Remen said. “Going into that halftime, we kind of got a little frustrated with the defensive line because they weren’t making the reads and plays that we knew they could make. We made some adjustments at halftime and started doing some defensive line stunts. I think our defense rallied as a unit and gave the offense more opportunities and excellent field position to get in the end zone.”After falling behind by a single point, Dillon tried but could not close the slim gap. The two teams traded possessions. The Big Red tried to use their passing game to make up the lost ground. But their final Hail Mary fell short and Alumni escaped with the close win.”For us, we were trying to make them pass,” Remen said. “What we accomplished in the second half was being able to shut down the run and make them have third-and-long situations where they were forced to pass. We were then able to bring in another defensive back to cover their receivers.”With their first win of the postseason under their belts, the Dawgs now look to take the second step towards playing in the Stadium and competing for the interhall title.”We’re taking it one week at a time but everyone is pumped because we’re one win away from getting to the Stadium,” Remen said. “We’re going to go out there and work hard and try and improve. Just get better and do the best we can and go from there.”