Men’s Interhall Football: Zahm flies past Morrissey into The Stadium
Colin Reimer and Tim Kaiser | Monday, November 7, 2005
Morrissey had the momentum, the ball and about 2:30 to move 70 yards and earn a trip to Notre Dame Stadium. The Manorites, with the imposing Zahm offense prepared to score and put the game away, had miraculously recovered a Sean Wieland fumble at their own 30. For the moment, the mighty Bats seemed beatable.
But Cameron Muhlenkamp had other ideas. In what has become a defining characteristic of the Zahm defense in recent weeks, Muhlenkamp stepped up and made a play. On the first play after the fumble, the Zahm defensive back jumped a quick sideline pass, making a diving interception to seal an 8-6 victory and punch Zahm’s ticket to the Stadium. It was the third turnover that Zahm had forced on the day.
“When you’re out there late in the game, your emotions start running,” Bats captain Pat Gourley said. “When we fumbled it late, we were a bit concerned.
But I knew that our pass defense would step it up.”
The entire game had a championship-like atmosphere. The bitter cold and wet conditions forced both teams to focus on the ground game. Momentum turned about as often as the gusting winds that blew across Riehle Field, and the game itself lived up to its billing as a defensive slugfest. Fittingly, Muhlenkamp’s stellar defensive effort sealed the game.
However, in the first half, it appeared as if the game would be a bit more offensive than what was originally expected. Zahm opened the game with an impressive 7-play, 65-yard drive capped off by Theo Ossei-Anto’s 1-yard touchdown run.
The opening drive was highlighted by Sean Wieland’s 42-yard strike to receiver Jake Richardville. Wieland then hit Seth Freiesleben for a two-point conversion to make it 8-0, and provide the margin of victory for the Bats.
Stunned, but not fazed, Morrissey answered Zahm’s score with an exhausting 15-play drive capped by an 8-yard touchdown pass by quarterback Mike Spencer. The drive featured a steady diet of the Manorites’ powerful running back Nick Klein, who carried 18 times for 73 yards on the day. The bruising back powered through Zahm’s strong defensive line, often carrying several defenders with him.
“We’ve been doing it all season,” Klein said. “Zahm has a very tough defense.”
Unfortunately for Morrissey, Zahm was able to come up with a huge stop when it needed to, dropping Klein inches short of the goal line on the two-point attempt. It was quite possibly those few inches that kept Morrissey from reaching the championship game.
Klein however, refused to make excuses.
“There are so many chances throughout the game that you can’t look at just one play as the reason you lost,” he said. “I’m proud of our team for the hard work. This is just the how football is sometimes.”
The teams traded defensive punches throughout the remainder of the game. Late in the third, Morrissey drove deep into Zahm territory, threatening to take the lead. But Pat Gourley picked off a Spencer pass, and Zahm successfully dodged another bullet.
Morrissey squandered solid field position in the fourth as well when an attempted reverse backfired, resulting in a fumble. Liam Larkin fell on it for the Bats, setting up his offense with a chance to ice the game.
Behind the running of Ossei-Anto (12 carries, 71 yards) and Muhlenkamp (8 carries, 42 yards), the Bats drove to within the Morrissey five. However, successive penalties moved Zahm back 20 yards, forcing them to throw on third and long. Wieland was blindsided as he rolled left, fumbling in the process. Morrissey recovered, and Muhlenkamp’s interception ended it on the next play.
A brimming Gourley said he can’t wait to play in the Stadium in two weeks.
“[It’s] a dream come true,” he said. “To have the last game of my career be played in Notre Dame Stadium is unimaginable.”
Keenan 7, Carroll 0
Keenan’s defense stopped Carroll on it’s only fourth quarter drive, and its offense did the rest, as the Knights defeated the Vermin 7-0 on a slippery Sunday at the Stepan fields.
There were no points scored in the second half, and turnovers and penalties proved costly for both teams. Both teams made plenty of mistakes, playing the last game of the day on a torn-up, muddy field. Keenan’s offense was penalized 65 yards in total. Keenan threw two interceptions, and Carroll threw one and had a fumble all within the last six plays of the second quarter. Carroll also had a costly fumble on a sack at the end of the third quarter.
Keenan’s running game was the key to its win. Running back Alex Staffieri scored on the second play of the second quarter from two yards out, and the Knights largely kept it on the ground for the rest of the game, not even throwing a pass in the second half, running out the clock as its defense kept Carroll in check. Keenan ran for 137 yards in total, but was far from dominant, as it was unable to put Carroll away until late in the fourth quarter when the defense came up with a big a fourth-down stop.
Both defenses played well, as, in addition to the turnovers, each team was forced to punt once, and Carroll turned the ball over on downs twice (Keenan did so once). But Carroll’s defense allowed more big plays than Keenan, including passing plays of 45 and 56 yards that went to senior wide receiver Dan Zenker. Keenan had 258 yards of total offense, compared to Carroll’s 98.
Keenan was thrilled with the victory and eager to play Zahm.
“We came out and we played Keenan football,” senior captain Vince Lyzinski said, “And Carroll couldn’t stop it.”
Lyzinski credited an excellent performance by the offensive line and tailback Staffieri with sealing Keenan’s victory.
He also said that his team couldn’t wait to play its next game.
“We’re really excited for Zahm”, he said. “We’ve got a little rivalry going, and it’s going to be a great game.”
Carroll was disappointed at the outcome of the game, but looked back positively at this season’s success.
“We gave it a heck of an effort,” Carroll coach John Tira said of Sunday’s game. “We had opportunities, but we didn’t connect on any of our long passes. I’m really proud of the way we played right until the end. This was a good Keenan team.”
Peter Sweeney, senior co-captain of the Carroll team, also saw positives in his team’s performance this season.
“It was a disappointing loss,” he said. “But, overall, the season was good. My freshman year our team didn’t win a single game.
“Since then, we’ve come a long way. It’s been a great year.”