Chris Masoud | Monday, November 24, 2008
Keenan gave Siegfried its toughest test of the season, but the Ramblers held on for a 14-13 win to claim the Interhall Championship.
Siegfried’s victory in the Stadium capped off a perfect season, who finish undefeated and untied through seven games.
“It’s a great feeling,” Siegfried senior captain Kevin Kelly said. “Just to be able to play in the Stadium is awesome, but to win a championship in it – that’s special.”
Trailing 14-7, Keenan scored a touchdown with just over two minutes remaining in the game. In a gutsy decision, the Knights elected to attempt the two-point conversion, which would give them a one-point lead. But the Rambler defense stepped up as it has all season, batting down an intended pass for senior receiver Jim Zenker.
“It was a risky decision, but we thought we could get it,” Keenan captain Barton Dear said. “There’s no guarantee we would have executed a good snap, hold, and kick for the PAT. It’s disappointing, but I’m still proud of these guys.”
The Ramblers established themselves from the first whistle, forcing Keenan to go three-and-out on the first drive of the game. Siegfried proceeded to block the punt, giving the offense excellent field position well within Keenan territory.
Senior quarterback Max Young and the Rambler offense wasted little time putting points on the scoreboard.
Resilient running back Dex Cure powered through the holes for an 18-yard run on the second play of the drive. Rolling out of the pocket, Young found receiver Gary Burke in the back of the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown pass. The PAT made the score 7-0 at the end of the first quarter.
The Knights were poised to score on the subsequent drive when quarterback Terry Mahoney completed multiple passes to his receivers for large gains. But the Siegfried defensive line simply overpowered Keenan in the trenches. Led by senior Jamie Silverson and sophomores Pat Kelly and Chris Skubis, the Ramblers sacked Mahoney twice and forced a fumble that was recovered by Skubis.
“They’re a big bunch of guys, bigger than any other team’s line,” Siegfried head coach P.J. Zimmer said. “They start off slow, but once they get going they thrive off hitting the quarterback.”
Nevertheless, Keenan refused to finish the first half with zero points on the board.
After forcing a Siegfried three-and-out, the Knights scored on the first play of the drive when Mahoney hit Zenker with a 6-yard pass. The elusive receiver proceeded to sprint 65 yards downfield, weaving between defenders and breaking no less than six Siegfried tackles on his way to the end zone.
“Zenker had a great game for us,” Dear said. “He’s been a playmaker all year, today was no different.”
Entering halftime with a 7-7 tie, Keenan seemed to have all the momentum.
But in the second half the Rambler defense showed the fans in attendance why Siegfried is undefeated and untied. Cornerback Gary Burke intercepted a Mahoney pass, who was hit by the Siegfried defensive line as he was throwing. Gary returned the ball down to the Keenan 17-yard line, giving the Ramblers excellent field position.
The offense took care of the rest, as three different players carried the ball on the ground. Senior Marcus Young displayed great vision and agility as he skirted past Keenan defenders and ran the ball into the end zone. After the extra point, the Ramblers led Keenan 14-7.
Coach Zimmer said his team was playing signature Siegfried football.
“All season long we’ve grinded out victories,” Zimmer said. “This is a senior-laden team that’s downright gritty at times. When we can run the football, we have success.”
The Rambler defense continued to pressure Mahoney, who rushed another throw that was intercepted by senior Vince Andrews. Andrews returned the ball to the Keenan 29-yard line.
The Ramblers were unable to score another touchdown, however, as Dear and the Knight defense recovered a fumble late in the third quarter.
With time running out, Mahoney led the Knights down the field as they tried to launch a historic comeback for the Interhall title. The balanced Knight offense converted consecutive first downs, as running back Andres Villalba fought for yards on the ground. On the ninth play of the drive, Mahoney hit Zenker for a 25-yard pass, who eluded multiple tackles en route to the end zone.
The Knights failed on the ensuing two-point attempt, and all but sealed their fate. Zimmer, though, applauded his opponent’s decision.
“Hats off to them,” he said. “We would have made the same call in that situation.”
The running back duo of Cure and Young effectively ran down the clock, as Siegfried held on to win the Interhall Championship and take its place as one of the most successful teams in interhall history.
For the Keenan seniors, Sunday’s loss is a bitter pill to swallow. This is the third year the senior Knights have lost in the Stadium in their standout careers.
“It feels terrible losing all three years, but it’s an honor playing in the Stadium where so many greats have played,” Zenker said. “Playing my last football game in the Stadium is the greatest experience ever. I’ll never forget my interhall career.”