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Men’s Interhall: Rivalry renewed: Keenan, Stanford meet again

Griffin Dassatti | Friday, November 16, 2007

Sunday will be the Battle for the Chapel, not to mention the Interhall Championship.

No. 1 seed Stanford takes on No. 3 seed Keenan at 1:30 p.m. in Notre Dame Stadium in a rematch of the last game of the regular season, where Stanford beat Keenan 12-8.

Living in the same building has created a rivalry between the two halls. Stanford senior captain Rob Huth said tension has hovered around the Griffins this year.

“We feel like people have underestimated us throughout the season,” Huth said. “And that’s been a big motivator for us. No one gives us a chance, so we kind of play with that chip on our shoulder, and it’s worked to this point. Keenan’s always viewed us as a little brother so we want go out there and give those guys a tough game.”

“Tough” is certainly one word that could describe Stanford’s win over the Knights in the regular season, a game that Huth said helped his team both in terms of confidence and in the road to the championship game.

“Up until that point, we hadn’t beaten [Keenan] in three years, and getting that win was big for us,” Huth said. “Plus it gave us the one-seed in the playoffs, which has helped. So it turned out to be a pretty important win for us.”

Huth said the ability of the Griffins defense to fend off Keenan’s powerful running attack was the determining factor in the win.

Sophomore Pat Burns, the Knights’ captain, said the loss has dictated the practices this past week, with the team focusing on bolstering its already strong offensive line to make holes for the thunder-and-lightning tandem of senior fullback Joe Pappas and junior halfback Alex Gonzalez.

While the loss to their next-door rival did hurt, Burns also said his team’s experience will give the Knights the all-important mental edge. Keenan has made the playoffs in each of the past three years, winning a championship in 2004 and losing in the finals in 2005.

While there will be some nerves, Burns said, the extremely experienced juniors and seniors on the team will be confident and calm.

“[The upperclassmen] have definitely helped a lot,” Burns said. “They’ve told us what to expect. They know what’s going on this whole week and that’s a little bit of an edge [we have] over Stanford. The [underclassmen] won’t be as taken up and they’ll be ready to play.”

On the other side of the ball, Huth conceded a lack of experience, but also said his team has seen its fair share of pressure situations. One example was the play that won the Griffins their first round game against Dillon.

Trailing 3-0 after the Big Red hit a field goal in its first overtime possession, Huth decided to go for it on fourth-and-goal. The decision worked out beautifully: Junior safety Dave Costanzo stepped in at quarterback to hit freshman tight end Tom Smith for the game-winning touchdown.

The recent experience in the “pressure-cooker” along with a good team attitude, Huth said, should take care of most of the nerves on the Griffins’ sideline.

“Overall the team’s pretty laid back,” Huth said. “I don’t see a problem as far as being nervous. For the seniors, it being the last time putting on the pads will be a big [source of] motivation. For everyone else, there will be motivation in the fact that you never know when you’ll get back there. There’ll be jitters; I’d be lying if I said there weren’t any, but they’ll definitely be a more positive factor than a negative.”

In terms of game strategy, both teams have their ideas fairly well-formulated from the season. Burns said most of the Knights’ success this year stems from their defensive prowess. He pointed to Keenan’s 7-0 semifinal victory over Siegfried as an example of the defense making things easy on the offense.

The game was so close early because the offense was a little sluggish that game,” he said. “[But] our defense was playing so well we didn’t think we needed to take any big risks on offense. A lot of credit goes to the Siegfried defense, too. They played a great game.”

Huth said the Griffins are looking to stick to the same plan from earlier in the year to beat Keenan – stop the run and force the opponent into passing situations. With that in mind, Stanford’s practices have focused on cleaning up some coverage issues the coaches noticed in the teams’ first meeting.

Other than that, the captain said he’ll be looking to Costanzo (a former varsity walk-on), Smith, senior receiver Matt Frankenfeld, and senior defensive end Matt Templemire to step up like they have all year.

He added that a win over a team like Keenan will go beyond rivalry as something of a signature victory to cap off a perfect season for the Griffins.

“Even before you get on the field and play them it’s a rivalry between the dorms,” Huth said. “We always have to hear about how they’re the better dorm and how they’ve been better than us before. …They’re kind of the benchmark team on campus. They won [the championship my] freshman year and they were in the stadium [my] sophomore year. They’re the team that’s the barometer for where you’re at as a program.”