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Women’s Interhall Football: Cavanaugh remains unbeaten

Joe Meixell | Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Cavanaugh is for real.

Its emotional 6-0 win over rival Walsh Hall Tuesday night clinched a playoff spot for the Chaos and proved they are among the best in the league. Cavanaugh’s 3-0 record puts it in elite company with Welsh Family Hall – the only other team in the division with a 3-0 record and a playoff berth.

Both offenses struggled in what turned out to be a defensive war. Each team displayed unbreakable defense, allowing very few completions, yards or first downs throughout the night. The first half ended in a 0-0 deadlock after Katie Dunn’s 20-yard touchdown pass that would have given the Chaos the lead was called back because of a holding penalty.

“Our defense has gotten the job done all season,” Walsh captain Mary Claire Sullivan said. “We have great defensive coaches.”

The second half remained as intense as the first. Katie Dunn was unable to break the Walsh secondary, which knocked down numerous passes. Dunn was forced to scramble often, and open receivers were scarce. The teams altered possessions with punts and turnovers on downs.

With the score remaining 0-0 with less than two minutes left in the game, an overtime period looked probable as Cavanaugh took over deep in their own territory. On first down, Dunn was forced out of the pocket yet again. This time, however, she scrambled up the middle, squeezed through defenders and broke three tackles for a 60-yard touchdown run to give the Chaos a 6-0 lead with only 1:37 left to play.

Walsh attempted to salvage the game as they hastily moved the ball down field on a string of passes – but ultimately fell short as it struggled to penetrate Cavanaugh’s secondary.

“Our defense is everything for this team,” Dunn said. “They take all the pressure off of me. I gain confidence knowing we can’t lose because they don’t allow any points.”

After the game, Chaos players were tempted to look towards the season finale.

“We’re looking to go to the stadium this year,” Cavanaugh offensive lineman Katie Rivard said. “We’re taking it one game at a time and hopefully we’ll get there.”

Walsh may not have had the success they were looking for, but acknowledged the stellar play of the Chaos. The team believes that although it had a hard fought game, it has yet to play up to its potential.

“We’re going to have a breakout game,” Sullivan said. “I promise you that. And once we do, someone’s going to feel it.”

Badin 13, Lyons 7

Badin stopped Lyons on its first seven possessions, forcing five punts and intercepting two passes – en route to a well-rounded defensive performance Tuesday.

“We have a smart, quick defense,” Badin wide receiver and defensive back Lizzi Shappell said. “We played zone most of the game, but near the goal line we played man.”

On the other side of the ball, quarterback Katie Rose Hackney led the Bullfrogs, who were able to move the ball up the field against the Lyons’ defense.

The Bullfrogs were able to capitalize on their air attack. Wide receiver Courtney Rains caught a long pass down the left sideline for a touchdown near the end of the first half.

“We had a tight line-up, and the receivers took their men out and created openings,” Rains said.

“The receivers were running tight routes,” said Hackney, who completed 6-of-14 passing with a touchdown and two interceptions. “I asked them before the game to find the holes and spread out, and they did a great job.”

Although Hackney and her receiving corps were clicking, the Bullfrog defense controlled the game.

“We have an aggressive defensive line, and we pulled flags well,” Badin coach Charlie Doar said. “We struggled with that last game, so we stressed it today.”

Claire Connell and Maria Petnuch rotated at quarterback for the Lions, and both of them teamed up in the backfield to run the option. Connell was a more effective passer, but neither could get much going on offense.

It was near the goal line that Hackney blocked Petnuch’s pass attempt on a blitz, caught the tip and returned the interception for a touchdown early in the first half.

Badin is now 2-2 and right back in the playoff picture.

“We’ll be the team to beat come playoffs,” Shappell said.

Welsh Family 25,

Pasquerilla East 0

Welsh Family Jenni Gargula completed 15-of-19 passes for four touchdowns and an interception as the undefeated Whirlwinds defeated the Pyros Tuesday night.

The Whirlwinds alternated between short West-Coast style slant and square-out patterns and vertical downfield passing.

“We went with whatever the defense gave us,” Gargula said.

Welsh Family also threw in some option runs to keep the Pyro defense guessing. The option turned out to be very effective and helped keep the Whirlwind offense on the field.

The Whirlwinds sustained four long drives – ending in touchdown passes to receivers Annie Hollenbeck, Kelly Bushelle, Stephanie Bendinelli and Demi Huweth. Due to this ball control, Welsh Family’s defense was not on the field often, but it shut the Pasquerilla East offense down when it was.

“We have good speed on our defensive line – any good girl’s interhall team will have speed on the defensive line,” Welsh Family coach Tom Chesnick said. “We forced them to throw early.”

The strategy worked. Pyro quarterback Mora Adams was essentially shut down in the second half as PE’s two drives ended in an interception and a failed fourth down conversion attempt.

The Whirlwinds also benefited from their quick, athletic secondary. Adams’ passes were often knocked down, and when they were caught the receiver’s flag was pulled on the spot.

Gargula was sacked only once in the game. She anticipated pressure in the pocket and either stepped up and made a throw or scrambled if the play broke down.