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Men’s Interhall football: Hunt for title begins with game against Alumni

MIKE GOTIMER, JARED JEDICK, MATT GAMBER, ALEX BARKER, MEGHAN MCMAHON and GENIE ALFONZO | Friday, September 21, 2007

When their season begins Sunday, defending interhall champion Morrissey will have one thing on their mind: Repeat.

The game will pit the Manorites against an Alumni squad that will try to avenge last year’s loss to the Manor.

“I think it will be a very competitive game,” Morrissey senior captain Nick Bencomo said. “If we focus on taking care of our own business and coming together as a team, everything else will fall in place.”

Morrissey returns a majority of their starters, but will miss the presence of playmakers Steve Klein, Tony Cunningham and Joe Gemino. Returning once again to take the reins of their potent offense will be junior quarterback Joe McBrayer. He will depend on junior receiver Carl Anderson and fullback Alvin Reynolds to help the Manorites return to the stadium.

“Even though we had a few key losses from last season, I think we will be more than ready to be competitive again and make another deep run into the playoffs,” Bencomo said. Some new additions to the team will be counted on to make an immediate impact. Junior Warren Scott and senior tight end Bryan Stanistreet will help the offense and cornerbacks. Sophomore Ryan Lash and freshman Ryan McSweeney will add some depth on defense. Morrissey will rely on their speed and quickness for success.

As for Alumni, it will have to forget the disaster that was last season and focus on improving. After last year’s second week thrashing at the hands of the Manorites, they were unable to right the ship, finished with a meager 1-3 record and failed to make the playoffs.

“We are a determined group and we’re ready to kick some [expletive] and take some names,” senior captain Bret Shapot said. “We will make the playoffs this year.”

Key returning players that Shapot will look for to carry the team on both sides of the ball are senior defensive end/offensive lineman Jason Nagle, senior linebacker/fullback Jono Penn and linebacker/tight end Nick Fanslau.

However, they will have to replace impact players Nick Chambers, Pat Sullivan and Alex Leough who led a strong defensive unit last season.

“Morrissey is the defending champion. If we want to win we have to come to them,” Shapot said.

“The road to the playoffs starts Sunday,” Shapot said.

Sorin vs. St. Edward’s

Sorin will host St. Ed’s Sunday at 2 p.m. on the north side of Riehle fields in an opening bout between two teams that failed to make the playoffs last year.

Fans who love hard-nosed football will enjoy this matchup that includes two teams that pride themselves on running the football and playing defense.

The Sorin Otters plan to improve this year and put last year behind them.

“We’ve always been strong on defense, but now we’ve got some young freshman linemen that will help to turn things around on offense,” senior captain Ryan Bove said.

Making the turnaround on offense will be more difficult – Sorin has two potential starters at quarterback. Sophomore Casey McGushin and junior Connor Douglas are battling to be the signal caller and neither has a clear advantage.

This uncertainty in Sorin’s passing game means a lot of opportunities for sophomore running back Robert Gallic.

“We are looking to establish the run more than in years past,” Bove said.

Senior outside linebacker Chris Schwarber and senior safety Mark Dummett lead the tough defense. They hope to help the Otters maintain their proud tradition of strong defense.

“I feel confident that our team is better than it has been,” Bove said.

St. Ed’s was winless last season and is looking to take some steps in the right direction this season.

The offense, and the offensive line in particular, is a big focus for St. Ed’s this year, according to coach Cameron Hogue.

“Our offensive line is huge this year. We are going to score a lot of points,” Hogue said.

With inexperienced freshman Matt Abeling at quarterback, St. Ed’s intends to rely on its running game.

“We’ll probably be running all the time. We intend to run right over people,” Hogue said.

Carrying the ball for St. Ed’s will be Sean Reed. He will be running behind a very large and significantly improved offensive line, Hogue said.

“There shouldn’t be anyone stopping us,” Hogue said.

Leading the defense is senior captain and middle linebacker Ge Wang. The defense will try to complement St. Ed’s ball control and time of possession strategy on offense with it’s own physical style of play.

Keough vs. Keenan

Sunday morning will be anything but easy when the Keough Kangaroos face the Keenan Knights at 3 p.m. It’s been a rough couple of seasons for Keough Hall, junior captain Tom O’ Donnell said.

“[We were] awful last season and we haven’t won a game since I’ve been here,” O’Donnell said.

After assembling a mostly new lineup, the Kangaroos anticipate a better record this season with some help from their intimidating offensive line, which O’ Donnell said is “huge.” Another key player, senior John Kadous, was a former member of the Notre Dame football team and will play as a defensive end and tackle.

A different mindset emanates from Keenan. The Knights appear to have more confidence this season, harkening back to their successful 2006 campaign in which they went 4-0 in the regular season but fell in the first round of the playoffs to Siegfried.

As for returning players, the Knights have a lot of experience in their secondary and linebacker positions to provide the team with a “Keenan defense [that] wrecks people,” junior captain Pat Burns said.

However, the class of 2011 puts in their two cents towards the team too.

“We have good freshmen on our offensive line,” Burns said. “They should surprise a lot of people.”

A powerful force, Keenan hopes to use this to their advantage in Sunday’s game. Keough, however, feels they should not be underestimated.

Carroll vs. Zahm

Sunday’s 3 p.m. matchup between Carroll and Zahm pits a pair of teams looking to build on a season that saw both teams make the playoffs – only to lose in the opening round.

Zahm is especially anxious to get back on the field after its season ended with an agonizing loss to Morrissey, the eventual champion. The Zahmbies, said senior captain Sean Wieland, came up six inches short on a two-point conversion attempt that would have won them the game. Instead, they came up empty and fell 7-6.

Picking up where they left off will be the backfield tandem of Wieland, in his fourth year at quarterback, and junior running back Theo Ossei-Anto. Junior Liam Larkin will anchor both the offensive and defensive lines.

“We’ve had a couple good practices, but we won’t be able to tell what we have until we get into game situations,” Wieland said. “The old cliché, ‘take one game at a time’, is what we’re trying to do. We’ll see what kind of strengths and weaknesses we have after the first game.”

Carroll should present a formidable challenge, particularly for the Zahm defense. Sophomore Jon Sarna will guide an offense that isn’t afraid to stray from the interhall norm of smash mouth, run-first football.

“We’ll move the ball around, spread out our offense and pass the ball,” senior captain wide receiver Kyle Kownacki said. “We aren’t afraid to run it, either. We have a very versatile offense.”

For the spread offense to be successful, senior offensive linemen James Geyer, Jesse Greenwood and Mike O’Connor will have to protect Serna. Geyer and fellow senior defensive linemen Ben Gern and Milo Dodson will look to spend some quality time in the Zahmbies’ backfield blowing up plays.

While the potential outcome is in doubt, one thing is certain: Carroll has earned the respect of the Zahm captain.

“Every year I’ve been here, they have been pretty solid. Traditionally they hadn’t been, but this senior class is really good,” Wieland said. “It should be a pretty good battle.”

Knott vs. Siegfried

This week’s season opener between Mod Quad rivals Knott and Siegfried has more on the line than a 1-0 start to the season.

The game, which is usually scheduled as each dorm’s opener, is one of the events in the Flanner Cup, in which the two dorms compete for the naming rights of the slope behind Grace and Flanner halls. Siegfried looks to repeat as winners this year and ensure that the slope retains its title as the “Siegfried Slope.”

Siegfried is very confident heading into the season after a strong performance last year. In addition to their 16-6 victory over Knott, the Ramblers made the playoffs, but lost in the semifinals. The Ramblers return many starters on offense. They return junior quarterback Max Young, junior running back Marcus Young, and junior wide receiver Gary Burke. The majority of the offensive line returns as well.

Siegfried captain Tom Martin also mentioned that he is excited about the Ramblers star defensive player, Roldex McMaster.

“Our star defensive player is Roldex McMaster,” Martin said. “Although lately he has had some trouble remembering the names of our plays and has resorted to using nicknames like ‘Yellowshirt’ and ‘Martha’ instead of the actual play calls.”

In addition to Siegfried’s many experienced players, Martin is very excited about the new players this year, and he expects them to contribute to the team.

After coming off a season in which they missed the playoffs by just one point, Knott is looking forward to making a playoff run this year.

“It was a tough year last year,” Knott sophomore captain Aidan Fitzgerald said. “We’re just excited to get back on the field and play.”

Fitzgerald said that he thinks the Juggerknotts should be strong on offense this year, led by Fitzgerald at quarterback and senior wide receiver Nate Prochaska. In addition, he expects big things from the Knott Hall freshmen. He specifically mentioned that freshman running back Cameron Smith should emerge as one of the team’s strongest offensive players.

Stanford vs. O’Neill

Stanford hopes to seek revenge Sunday at 2 p.m. on the Riehle Fields when they meet defending Gold Division champions, the O’Neill Mob.

Last season, No. 8 seed Stanford snuck into the playoffs and went on to upset the No. 1 seed Fisher. Their come-from-behind playoff run came to a crashing halt in the semifinal game, however, when the Mob defeated them in what Stanford captain Rob Huth said was “not really a close game.” O’Neill finished 3-1 in the post-season and lost to Morrissey in the championship game.

Huth says this year’s offense is very talented and hard working, but their greatest strength is on defense. The leadership of the defensive line and experience of the linebackers and secondary will be key to defeating the Mob. O’Neill must also be aware of the pick-six potential of senior Dave Costanzo, Stanford’s star player and former safety for the Notre Dame’s football team.

Unlike Stanford’s individual talent, the O’Neill Mob relies on teamwork. “Both offense and defense’s success depends on the cooperation of every single player on the field,” senior captain Pat Conley said.

The O’Neill team is slightly undersized this year, but their strong defensive and offensive lines will be key to their success.

“We will win on Sunday if we control the line of scrimmage,” Conley said.

They plan to strike early and utilize the momentum to set the tone for the game.

Despite losing some of his team’s best players, Conley has set the bar high for his team. The Mob hopes to repeat last year’s success, but this time, they want to return from the stadium with the championship cup.

They’re not the only ones with a championship appearance on their mind – Stanford, too, seeks redemption from last year’s game.

“I wouldn’t be playing if we didn’t have a chance to win,” Huth said. “I think we can win, we just have to put it all together.”