-

The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.

-

archive

Interhall Playoffs: Any given Sunday, any given dorm

Joe Meixell | Tuesday, October 31, 2006

With just minutes remaining in the game, Stanford tailback Tregg Duerson once again broke through the Fisher defensive line and burst into the end zone. The Griffins failed on the two-point conversion, but the touchdown was enough to secure Stanford’s upset victory over No. 1 Fisher Sunday.

After a 2-2 regular season, the Griffins knew the undefeated Fisher team would be a tough matchup. Despite Fisher’s dominance throughout the season, Stanford captain Brandon McLeod was confident in his team’s abilities.

“If we had long drives and kept the defense fresh, our chances of beating Fisher were very high,” he said.

The Griffins executed McLeod’s strategy perfectly. From the very first play, the Stanford defense showed its determination by securing the line and putting good coverage on the Green Wave’s receivers. While Stanford was also able to force an early turnover, it could not capitalize on the opportunity and gave the ball back to the Green Wave

Fisher then began a long, steady drive down the field led by freshman Jamie Ellis, who found holes in Stanford’s defensive line for big gains.

With the ball on the 30-yard line, quarterback Pat Gotebeski – who took over as starter after Kevin Rabil suffered a broken ankle in Fisher’s last regular season game – looked downfield and connected with his receiver in the end zone. Kicker Thomas Sullivan successfully converted the point-after attempt to give Fisher an early 7-0 lead.

The Stanford offense was eager to put some points on the board before the end of the half, and it got the perfect opportunity to do so when Fisher fumbled a punt return that the Griffins were able to recover just 20 yards from the end zone. With just five seconds left in the half, Duerson recovered his own teammate’s fumble on the 3-yard line and charged into the end zone.

Because the Stanford team does not have a kicker, it was forced to go for two, but the Green Wave stopped the run, giving Fisher a 7-6 advantage heading into the half.

The second half was marked by strong defensive performance by both teams. Both Stanford and Fisher had to punt the ball away on every series but one.

Rabil was disappointed with the outcome of the game, but he credited the Griffins with putting up a great fight.

“We knew we had to take it one game at a time,” he said.

Siegfried 3, Keenan 0

After finishing regulation to a 0-0 tie, Keenan and Siegfried came down to two legs.

Keenan drove the ball to the Siegfried five on two runs by Alex Gonzalez, and when its pass sailed incomplete in the end zone, the field goal unit trotted onto the field. A strong surge, coupled with a bobbled snap enabled the Ramblers to block the kick, knocking off the No. 2 seeded Knights Sunday.

The Ramblers took possession first in the overtime period, getting the ball at the Keenan 10-yard line. Unable to move the ball, Siegfried was forced to try a field goal. The pressure fell on the shoulders of the emergency kicker Brandon Burke, who was filling in for an injured Pablo Nava. Burke, booted the 27-yarder, setting the stage for the dramatic finish.

Following the game, an elated Siegfried captain Matt Wopperer, was at a loss for words.

“It’s like, ‘Wow,'” Wopperer said. “They [Keenan] were a darn good team, but our defense really held it together.”

Despite gaining 141 yards to the Ramblers’ 70, the Knights were unable to finish drives, turning the ball deep in Siegfried territory three times, including two crucial red zone fumbles in the fourth quarter.

“Give all the credit to Siegfried,” Keenan captain Matt Gibson said. “They came to play today. They out-hit us, and we just couldn’t overcome the big mistakes.”

Led by middle linebacker Will Jourdan, Siegfried forced three punts and a turnover on downs in addition to three fumbles.

“The defense provided the heart,” Wopperer said. “They kept the game within reach.”

But even the bend-but-don’t break style appeared not enough to contain the dominant Keenan offense.

Despite the constant offensive miscues, Keenan quarterback J.J. Vega – 5-of-14 for 56 yards – led his team into the red zone in the game’s final minutes. Following completions of 18 and 17 yards to Jim Zenker and Hal Munger, respectively, as well as a seemingly disastrous pass interference call on the Ramblers, Vega positioned the Knights for a game-winning field goal on the last play of the game. But the 34-yard attempt sailed wide left, leaving the window of opportunity open for Siegfried.

Despite the heartbreaking loss, Gibson remained encouraged for the prospects of next season.

“We return all but five players,” he said. “We’ll be back and ready to play next year.”

Wopperer expressed a sense of redemption for his team and dorm.

“We lost to Keenan two years ago in the semis, so this was a bit of payback,” he said.

O’Neill 21, Carroll 8

Sending players in motion, irregular snap counts and line-of-scrimmage check downs were all part of O’Neill’s strategy during its 21-8 win over Carroll Sunday.

The most telling play in terms of O’Neill’s execution and versatility came in the fourth quarter. O’Neill forced Carroll to punt, and during the ensuing drive, the Mob had a first-and-10 on the Vermin 44-yard line. O’Neill quarterback Chris Stroh saw the defensive alignment and checked off. He dropped back, pump-faked and threw a 43-yard strike down the right sideline to receiver Nate Forte.

That pass set up a one-yard touchdown run by running back Braden Turner to make the score 21-8.

“We were running the ball up the middle, and the corners were up tight,” Stroh said. “I thought the receivers could beat the corners off the ball, and I saw the middle linebacker blitzing.”

Stroh’s pump fake worked wonders.

“We called the pump fake special,” Stroh said. “We ran a hitch-and-go, and thought we could hold the corner.”

The Mob’s first three plays of the game set the tone for the style of play it would employ all game long. Receivers went in motion, forcing Carroll’s stock 4-3 defense to rearrange. O’Neill’s first drive lasted eight plays – seven of which were runs – and resulted in a one-yard touchdown run by fullback Mike Mattingly. After an offsides penalty on the point-after attempt moved the ball to the one-and-a-half yard line, the Mob decided to go for two and converted on a Mattingly run.

“We’ve been stressing the run offense,” Mob captain Pat Conley said.

The Mob varied the snap count throughout the game, a measure that many times caught the Vermin defense off guard.

Carroll was in the game early. It rebounded with its own 15-play, 65-yard drive that resulted in a three-yard touchdown run by running back Mike Johnson. The Vermin completed their two-point conversion attempt on a pass to Johnson from quarterback Cory Wilmont.

After that, the game belonged to O’Neill. O’Neill forced a three-and-out on Carroll’s first possession of the second half and scored again on a 23-yard play-action pass from quarterback Chris Stroh to receiver Alex Fortunato.

Morrissey 7, Zahm 6

It’s ironic that in a game dominated by ground offense, the winning touchdown would come on a pass.

But when Morrissey quarterback Joe McBrayer completed a 34-yard pass to wide receiver Carl Anderson on the fifth play of the game for a 7-6 win over Zahm Sunday, that’s exactly what happened.

Morrissey went ahead 7-0 and held on to win.

Zahm was forced to punt on its first possession, but Morrissey fumbled the kick, giving the Manorites the ball on the 19-yard line. Rabid Bat quarterback Sean Wieland completed a corner route into the back of the end zone for Zahm’s only touchdown of the game.

The two-point conversion was no good, marking the difference in the game.

Both Zahm running back Theo Ossei-Anto and Morrissey’s running back committee of Nick Bencomo, Brian Pieh and Steve Klein performed well, controlling the clock and moving the chains.

McBrayer attempted seven passes, but completed four for 55 yards and a touchdown. He also threw two interceptions in the game.

Klein attributed the success of the running game to the offensive line.

“We have a great line,” he said. “That’s part of our game plan, to grind the clock out.”

The Manor fizzled after their strong opening. McBrayer threw an interception on the next possession, setting up a 13-play drive by the Rabid Bats. The drive ended on the five-yard line when time ran out in the first half.

Morrissey came out firing in the second half. After forcing a three-and-out, the Manorites put together a beautiful 21-play drive that lasted for the rest of the third quarter and half of the fourth quarter.

Zahm put together a late drive, but an illegal block penalty forced a fourth-and-37. The ensuing pass resulted in an interception by Manorite defensive back Mike Fletcher, effectively ending the game.

Klein was happy with the way the defense performed.

“We’d rather have them bend and not break, than give up the big play,” he said. “Zahm never broke a big play.”