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Women’s Interhall Football: Perfection lost … and won

Sam Werner | Monday, November 19, 2007

No. 6 seed Cavanaugh defeated No. 1 seed – and previously undefeated – Welsh Family 14-0 on Sunday at Notre Dame Stadium to claim the women’s Interhall championship.

The Chaos, however, didn’t think their win was an upset.

“We definitely didn’t consider ourselves underdogs,” Cavanaugh coach Hunter Land said. “We came into this game confident.”

Led by junior quarterback Katie Dunn, the Chaos offense put up 14 points on a defense that hadn’t been scored on in its past three games. Dunn threw touchdown passes of nine and 14 yards, both to sophomore Erin Dolan.

Welsh Family’s offense looked promising early, getting into the red zone twice in the first half. The Chaos defense held tough and forced a turnover on downs and an interception by senior linebacker Lizzy Brown.

“We had two opportunities at the goal line, and we just didn’t capitalize,” Welsh Family assistant coach Mark Mihallo said. “We couldn’t punch it in.”

Cavanaugh couldn’t take advantage of their big stops. It punted the ball and turned it over on downs on its only two first-half possessions and the teams ended the first half in a scoreless tie.

At halftime, the Chaos got a huge momentum boost when a few members of the marching band arrived, instruments in hand, to inspire Cavanaugh’s already raucous fans.

“I think the fans set us apart,” Dunn said. “Look at it, we have pretty much our whole dorm here.”

Cavanaugh came out for the second half fired up and marched down the field on its first drive. Dunn completed four passes for 26 yards, and senior Tarah Brown rushed the ball three times for 15 yards. On third and goal from the nine-yard line, Dunn found Dolan in the right side of the end zone for a touchdown and a 7-0 Chaos lead.

The teams traded three-and-outs until Cavanaugh received the ball on its own 26-yard line and proceeded to rip off a clock-killing 11-play touchdown drive. With cheers of “Dunn for Heisman” echoing from the Cavanaugh fans, the junior led the Chaos down the field and completed three passes for 31 yards, including a 14-yard strike to Dolan on fourth and goal. The Chaos converted the extra point and took a commanding 14-0 lead with two minutes left to play.

Welsh Family completed three long passes on their final drive and moved the ball to the Cavanaugh 14-yard line. It was too little, too late, though, for the Whirlwinds, and the clock expired on their comeback.

After the win, the Cavanaugh fans charged the field, circling around their team and chanting “Dunn” as the band played the 1812 Overture.

The Whirlwind players, meanwhile, huddled in the corner of the field. For the second year in a row, Welsh Family ran up an undefeated regular season only to fall in the playoffs. Last year, the Whirlwinds were upset in the semifinals.

“After last year, we said that we weren’t going to let that happen again,” Whirlwinds junior quarterback Jenny Gargula said.

The Chaos defense had different plans, though, shutting out Welsh Family’s prolific offense.

“[Cavanaugh’s] defense did a great job,” Whirlwinds coach Mike Kaiser said. “I’ve got to give a lot of credit to their defensive line.”

After the game, Land also praised his defense.

“They were flying around and doing a great job of getting to the ball,” Land said.

As the Chaos celebrated on the Notre Dame Stadium field, Welsh Family was left to think about what went wrong.

“We did it to ourselves,” Gargula said. “[Cavanaugh] didn’t do anything different, we just didn’t play to our potential.”

Despite the loss, the Whirlwinds remained optimistic about next season, with several key players, most notably Gargula, returning.

“We’re going to come back next year to finish it off,” Gargula said.

Cavanaugh also looks to field a strong team next year. Dunn, along with many others, will be back to defend their title.

“We’ll definitely be strong,” Land said. “But we’re a deep team. We’ll lose some players, but others will step in.”