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Men’s Interhall Football: Playoffs?!

Allan Joseph | Friday, November 6, 2009

If the old adage “Defense wins championships” is true, Sorin’s first round playoff game against Siegfried should be nothing more than a speed bump on the road a to a championship in a few weeks. The Otters (3-0-1) enter the playoffs undefeated thanks to their stellar defense, which has yet to allow a point this season.

Before the season, it seemed that Sorin had the potential to shut down opposing offenses, returning the majority of a defense that had been impressive in 2008, with only a few key losses to graduation — holes that would be filled by freshmen and transfers. However, the Otters suffered a tough blow when sophomore strong safety Bobby Sullivan went down because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and meniscus, putting him out of commission for the season. Though he could not play, Sullivan assumed the role of defensive backs coach and has played a large role in the defense’s success.

“[Sullivan’s injury] was a pretty big hit for the secondary,” senior cornerback Jeremy Bruck said. “After that, we rallied together and things turned out okay.”

Bruck also said Sullivan’s coaching was a large reason why the secondary still performed so well.

“Even though he was injured, he really stepped up,” Bruck said. “He’s the reason we are where we are today.”

Even the rest of the defense credits the secondary as the spur of the defense’s success.
“Everything starts with the defensive backs,” junior linebacker Reid Mahoney said. “They come ready to play and we all like to hit hard.”

With the secondary playing at such a high level, the Otters focus on stopping the run and forcing the opposing team to pass against what coach Joe Westerhaus called a very disciplined secondary.

Sorin does not rely on any special tactics or strategy, but rather pure athleticism, Bruck said.

“Our call 100 percent of the time is ‘make plays,'” he said.

Other key aspects to the Otter defense’s success have been communication, heart and an underdog mentality. The latter two often evoke comparisons to Dr. Seuss stories.

 “I’d compare it to Horton Hears a Who!,” Bruck said. “Siegfried is the big Horton, and we’re like, who cares?”

Mahoney said he sees more of a holiday theme to the Otter defense.

“Our defense is like The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” Mahoney said. “Our opponents have hearts twice as small as us.”

With the success this defensive unit has had, they are no longer the underdog, as evidenced by the Otters’ second seed — and the players seem to know it.

“Sorin defense hates Christmas,” said Mahoney, adjusting his metaphor accordingly “We’re ready for Sunday.”