Interhall Football Finals: Champs!
Kane, Catherine | Monday, November 21, 2005
Senior Zahm captain Pat Gourley raised the interhall championship cup high in the air and led the chants of the Rabid Bats: “We are Zahm House!”
Zahm had just defeated Keenan in a thrilling championship game, and the celebration was on for the Bats in Notre Dame Stadium Sunday.
Keenan was first to both threaten the end zone and score, but the Knights failed to make the point after, a play that would loom large in the final outcome.
Keenan quarterback Rob Coly hit Dan Zenker for a 30-yard strike in the second quarter to give the Knights a 6-0 advantage. Zenker caught Coly’s pass at the 5 and rumbled across the goal line for what would be Keenan’s only score of the game.
“I was nervous when they scored on that big pass,” Gourley said.
The Bats, however, kept the score within reach going into the second half and righted their ship in the third quarter.
“I felt a lot more confident in the second half,” Gourley said.
In Zahm’s first drive of the half, after tailback Theo Ossei-Anto ran the ball for a Zahm first down, Mike Tieu caught a 35-yard pass tie the score at 6-6. The Bats converted the point after and took a 7-6 lead, which would eventually represent the game’s final score.
For Keenan, the loss was toughest because of the narrow margin.
Keenan’s Alex Staffieri said the final score of 7-6 testified to evenness of the teams and the game.
“It was a tough loss,” Alex Staffieri said. “Any time you lose by such a narrow margin its tough to stomach.”
After Zahm took its 7-6 lead, the Bats defense battled to hold the Knights back, and the strategy proved successful.
Zahm stuffed Keenan early in the fourth quarter to force a momentum-changing turnover on downs, and the Bats offense effectively held onto the ball, letting time tick off the clock throughout the game’s final 30 minutes.
But Keenan did not go out without a fight.
The Knights drove downfield and threatened to reclaim the lead with three minutes left in a quarter. Then the Zahm defense came through in the clutch.
Keenan fumbled the ball just when it looked as though the Knights were to threaten the end zone again, and the Bats recovered.
Keenan forced a three-and-out and breathed new life with just 27 seconds left on the clock when the defensive front blocked Zahm’s punt attempt at the Bats’ 37-yard line.
The Knights, however, could not capitalize on Zahm’s mistake.
After two incomplete passes, Zahm defensive back Kris Patterson intercepted a pass with 18 seconds remaining in the game, sealing the Zahm victory.
For Keenan, the missed opportunity was indicative of the way the game went.
On Zahm’s opening drive, Keenan intercepted a pass by Zahm quarterback Sean Wieland.
Keenan tried quickly to take advantage of the Bats’ miscue, first with a 30-yard Coly pass, and then a 10-yard run. But the Zahm special teams unit made its first crucial play of the game, blocking the Knights’s field goal attempt and keeping the game scoreless.
Staffieri said Keenan’s miscues cost the better team the championship.
“The effort and dedication were definitely there, but in the second half we made a few too many mistakes to overcome,” Staffieri said. “But I think we were definitely the better team out there today.”
The 7-0 Bats disagreed with that assessment, exhibiting pride in their championship.
“Obviously, it feels amazing,” Gourley said. “Couldn’t end a career on a better note. The undefeated [season] doesn’t mean much [to the championship], it just adds a little extra. It was always one game at a time. No one else, except us, thought we would make it this far.”
The freshman Ossei-Anto, who led the Zahm offense throughout the game and season, felt the same way.
“It is unbelievable; I have never been so happy,” he said. “This really is a dream come true.”
Gourley already made a prediction for 2006.
“Look out for us next year,” he said. “We’re only losing me. This same team is going to be back again next year.”