Men’s Interhall Football: Defensive stand leads Knights over Manor in battle of unbeatens
Joe Meixell | Tuesday, October 2, 2007
Keenan 9, Morrissey 6
Sunday’s battle between Keenan and Morrissey had it all: long punt returns, blocked kicks, trick plays and some controversial officiating.
But in the end, it was a gutsy, old-fashioned defensive stand that made the difference in the 9-6 Keenan victory.
It took 13 plays, but the Knights finally stopped the Manorites’ comeback bid as freshman linebacker Bart Dear, lining up at nose guard in a short yardage formation, tipped Morrissey junior quarterback Joe McBrayer’s final pass, capping an emotional victory over the defending champions.
“I got off the ball, got some penetration and just slapped at his arm,” Dear said. “I just looked up and prayed no one would catch it.”
Despite being outgained 220 yards to 58 and not recording a first down until the first play of the fourth quarter, the Knights led for much of the game thanks to a 96-yard punt return by senior Jon Wood.
“Even though I was at the one [yard-line], I saw I had enough space to make a return,” said Wood, who left the game with an ankle injury. “I made the decision to catch it, and 96 yards later, we’re on the three [yard-line].”
Morrissey marched right back into the Keenan red zone, but the nine-play drive ended with the first of the Manorites’ three turnovers on downs when a potential touchdown pass was dropped on fourth down.
Both defenses looked dominant until Morrissey’s second possession of the second half, when the Manorites finally found a chink in the Knights’ armor. Sophomore running back Danny Deveny took a toss to the right, and instead of turning it upfield as he and senior running back Nick Bencomo (12 carries, 36 yards) had all day, Deveny dropped back and fired a strike to junior receiver Carl Andersen (6 catches, 115 yards), who came down with the ball, broke a tackle and was off to the races for a 57-yard touchdown.
“We knew [Andersen] would make a play. He always makes plays,” said Deveny, a former high school quarterback. “We didn’t plan it, and we’d never run it in practice before, so I just threw it up there for him.”
Keenan freshman Ashley Cooke blocked the ensuing point-after an attempt to keep the score at 6-6 and regain a little momentum, which would prove crucial on the Knights’ following drive.
Facing a third-and-seven on the first play of the fourth quarter, freshman quarterback Brian Costello found junior Andres Villalba out of the backfield for a 17-yard screen pass and the Knights’ first first-down of the game. Another screen on the next play, this time to Gonzalez, netted 20 yards and put the Knights just outside the Manorite 20-yard line.
After Costello’s deep pass to junior receiver Jim Zenker was incomplete and no pass interference call was made despite a brief argument, sophomore captain Pat Burns came on to attempt a 37-yard field goal that gave the Knights the lead.
The kick was deflected at the line, but the groans from the Keenan sideline were silenced as the ball continued on its path and sailed through the uprights for a 9-6 lead.
“I saw the right side of the line give up some ground, but it was such a good hold and snap that I didn’t think it would matter,” Burns said. “Luckily I kicked it hard enough for the wind to help us out a little bit.”
The celebration would have to wait. The Manorites made it interesting by getting all the way to the Keenan 5-yard line, but Morrissey was unable to convert on its four tries within the 10.
“It was a great game all around,” Deveny said. “We hope to see them again in the playoffs, because that’s the most fun in a game we’ll have all year.”
Keough 9, O’Neill 6
They’d never practiced it before, but the Roos managed to make a field goal late to beat O’Neill 9-6 Sunday.
“We had never lined up in PAT [point after touchdown] [or] kicked field goals in practice before” Keough coach John Kadous said.
Junior Steve Simeonidis ended up coming through with the field goal, giving Keough the advantage with 34 seconds left in the game for the win.
With sophomore Nate Rothenberger and junior Nazur Ahmed gashing the Angry Mob defense, the Kangaroos got a jumpstart in the first half.
A 10-yard run by Ahmed in the second quarter led Keough to a first-and-goal situation, and quarterback Matt Briggeman completed a touchdown pass to sophomore John Maier, giving the Keough defense a lot of momentum for the second quarter.
“Our offense couldn’t move the ball,” O’Neill senior captain Pat Conley said.
However, O’Neill eventually got it together by running in a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
While junior captain Tom O’Donnell said that Keough plans to give Dillon “the same old [butt] kicking,” O’Neill will start from scratch before its game against Morrissey Sunday.
“Everything needs to be improved. We need to find something that works [because] what we’re doing now isn’t working,” he said.
Stanford 6, Dillon 0
Just as it did last week, the Stanford defense led the way to another shutout victory, defeating Dillon 6-0. The key was getting the right players in the right spot, junior captain Rob Huth said.
“We had guys in the first half and up until the third quarter playing defensive line that were really just offensive lineman. Our defense got drastically better when we played actual defensive lineman,” Huth said.
The reason for the switch, Huth said, was that the defense had some players that play rugby and couldn’t get there until the third quarter. But it did not seem to matter who was on the field for the Griffins, since the Dillon offense could not get anything going.
Looking for a spark, Stanford inserted mobile junior Dave Costanzo at quarterback and drastically changed its offensive style late in the second half.
“We ran our spread option offense, which I really didn’t want to do this week,” Huth said. “We have got to work on getting our regular pro-set offenses working.”
The result, however, turned out to be exactly what the Griffins were looking for. After Stanford’s drive was kept alive by a Dillon penalty for roughing the punter, Costanzo found freshman wide receiver Tom Smith for a 40-yard touchdown pass with only a few minutes remaining.
Fisher 12, Sorin 0
Fisher defeated Sorin 12-0 Sunday in the Green Wave’s first game of the season.
The Otters threatened early, driving the ball effectively to the Fisher 25-yard line. The drive featured a key fourth-down conversion on a catch by junior receiver Conor Douglass, but stalled, and the attempted field goal went wide right.
“We came out and drove the ball strong,” senior captain Ryan Bove said, “but after the missed field goal, we sort of fell apart.”
After forcing a Fisher punt, the Otters could not take advantage of the defensive stop, and turned the ball over on a fumbled pitch near midfield.
Fisher managed to capitalize with a quick drive comprised of two long passes from senior quarterback Kevin Rabil to senior receiver Pat Gotebeski, including one for a touchdown.
Fisher continued to dominate offensively in the second half, ripping off a 13-play drive to get within field goal range. The Otter defense came up big when it mattered, though, blocking the field goal attempt.
Even after the big defensive stop, Sorin’s offense continued to have trouble holding on to the ball. Sophomore running back Rob Gallic fumbled the ball on the first play of the drive, giving the Green Wave the ball on the Sorin 25-yard line. Fisher again made the most of Sorin’s miscue, punching the ball into the end zone in six plays and, after a failed two-point conversion, giving the Green Wave a 12-0 advantage.
After the game, Bove attributed the loss to the two key turnovers and expressed disappointment at Sorin’s 0-2 start.
“I’m at a loss for words right now,” Bove said. “We’re just going to have to go back to square one [at practice].”
Despite the lack of an effective running game, Fisher managed to move the ball well through the air, mainly through the duo of Rabil and Gotebeski, who had seven receptions on the day.
“They’ve been playing together for years,” Donovan said. “And today they just gelled.”
Fisher looks to build on this victory when it faces Carroll this weekend, while Sorin has a bye week to try and rebound from its disappointing start.
Knott 6, Zahm 0
After being shut out last weekend, Knott rebounded to defeat Zahm 6-0 Sunday.
The Juggerknotts started the game with the ball and kept possession for the entire first quarter. After driving into Zahm territory, Knott faced a fourth and long.
On the final play of the first quarter, Knott freshman running back J.T. Redshaw took a handoff from sophomore quarterback Aidan Fitzgerald, but suddenly dropped back and threw a strike to freshman Cameron Smith.
Smith caught the ball on the half-yard line to give Knott a first and goal to open the second quarter. On the next play, Fitzgerald called his own number and powered into the end zone to give Knott a 6-0 lead.
It appeared Zahm was going to answer. The Rabid Bats drove down the field, led by senior quarterback Sean Wieland and junior running back Theo Ossei-Ant. However, Zahm was stymied by the Knott defense and failed to convert on fourth and long in Knott territory.
“The first drive we didn’t set the tempo,” Zahm senior coach T.J. Stouder said. “Next week we need to come out and get intensity and try to get back to the stadium.”
The Zahm sideline begged for a pass interference penalty, but Knott still gained possession.
“I have to give credit to Vince Srejma, our defensive coordinator,” Knott head coach Brian Lohr said. “He kept our defense on our toes and kept the Zahm offense guessing. He gave them a variety of different looks and our guys played hard, bottom line.”
Zahm will look to bounce back against Siegfried next Sunday while Knott tries to keep rolling versus St. Ed’s.
St. Edward’s 7, Carroll 6
Despite turnovers and an acrobatic touchdown catch from Carroll star receiver Paul Tassinari, St. Edward’s beat the Vermin 7-6 Sunday, reaching 2-0 for the first time in recent memory.
The first and only points St. Ed’s scored came when senior strong safety Dan Murphy intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown on Carroll’s opening drive.
Tassinari scored Carroll’s only points on a completely horizontal dive into the end zone to make a grab. “Tall Paul,” as he is called by opponents and fans, had a productive game, catching five passes for 98 yards including his one touchdown.
Following Tassinari’s catch, the game became a defensive battle.
St. Ed’s senior captain Ge Wang called it an “ugly” win, but said that this kind of defensive effort was just what the struggling offense needed.
“We’re in each game as a team no matter what,” Wang said. “If our offense isn’t doing hot, our defense had better bail them out, and vice versa. We have full confidence in each other there.”
Freshman quarterback Matt Abeling did throw two interceptions, but as its captain demanded, the St. Ed’s defense hung tough, coming up with three picks of its own; the first by Murphy, the second by sophomore defensive end Joe DeMott, and the third by Costanzo. Wang credited the entire defense for creating the turnovers.
“We were able to get a lot of pressure on the quarterback thanks to great play by our linemen and linebackers,” Wang said. “But even with that pressure, we still gave up plays to Tall Paul.”
Overall, he said, the game showed that even at 2-0, St. Ed’s still has a lot to work on.
“We didn’t come out mentally that sharp today,” Wang said. “We just have to go back to the drawing board on offense and figure out what didn’t go as well as we planned. At this point we can’t get down on ourselves; we are 2-0. But there are a lot of things we can do to get better.”