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Men’s Interhall: Dillon, Sorin earn playoff confidence with wins

Sam Gans, Megan Golden, Joseph Monardo, Adam Llorens, Victoria Jacobsen and Matthew Defranks | Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Knott 8, Alumni 0

Knott raced off to a quick start early and held on late to upset previously unbeaten Alumni in a heated contest Oct. 14 for their first win of the season.

After Knott (1-3) stopped Alumni (3-1) on the opening drive, the Juggerknotts proceeded to take their first drive 76 yards for a touchdown behind the passing of sophomore quarterback Dylan Walter. Walter went 4-for-6 for 64 yards on the drive, including a 23-yard swing pass to senior running back Cam Smith to convert a key third-and-21. Walter finished the drive with a one-yard sneak.

Knott had attempted to move the ball through the air the whole season, but never achieved great success until it faced the Dawgs defense.

“We’ve been passing the ball all year, but today it just really came together,” Walter said. “I felt more comfortable. The line was giving me a lot of time.”

After Knott sophomore Jake Coleman ran in a fake extra point for a two-point conversion, Alumni drove into Juggerknott territory, but was stopped on third-and-7 when Knott junior captain Dan Shaffer laid a crushing hit to break up a screen and helped to continue the momentum.

“We came in intense and everybody kept it going,” Shaffer said. “Everybody got big hits, not just me, but that helped, too.”

Knott nearly lost the lead late in the game, with Alumni deep in Juggerknott territory. But when Alumni junior running back and captain Dan Dansdill fumbled the ball at the 10-yard line, Knott recovered the ball to seal the victory.

Though Alumni’s option offense, led by Dansdill and freshman quarterback Will Cronin, gained 45 more yards than Knott, but Alumni’s slow start and inability to finish drives led to its first loss.

“We came out flat,” Dansdill said. “They wanted it more than us. They pushed us around.”

Alumni, which had already clinched a playoff berth, was hoping to build momentum for the postseason. Instead, it left Thursday trying to pick up the pieces.

“The main thing is to regain our focus,” Dansdill said. “We need to all get on the same page and start working as a team.”

Though Knott was eliminated from postseason contention, the victory wasn’t any less sweet.

“It’s amazing,” Shaffer said. “It feels great, and it’s really good for next year.”

While Knott’s season is over, Alumni hopes to rebound as the No. 3 seed in an upcoming playoff game against Carroll.

Dillon 29, Keough 0

Dillon established itself as the overall No. 1 seed in the men’s interhall playoffs by finishing its regular season with a dominant victory over Keough Oct 14.

Dillon (4-0) freshman defensive back Patrick Touhy shut the Kangaroos down early with an interception on the first play of Keough’s (0-4) opening drive.

“I saw the ball and it got to me,” Touhy said. “The defense played great. They’re working really hard and doing a great job.”

The first half was predominantly a defensive matchup between the Big Red and the Kangaroos. Big Red senior defensive end Jack Winnike picked up a safety to close the half, giving Dillon a 9-0 lead over Keough.

In the second half, the Big Red’s passing game took center stage, connecting on several long balls and touchdown passes. Sophomore wide receiver Will Salvi had one of three Dillon touchdown receptions.

“I just went deep and got open,” Salvi said. “We have a great connection, me and [freshman quarterback] Kevin [Fink]. We dominate — we stay after practice and work hard.”

The Big Red is looking forward to competing as the top seed in the playoffs, as the Thursday win over Keough established them as the team to beat on the way to the championship game at Notre Dame Stadium.

“I think we’re definitely the favorite in the playoffs, but we can’t let that get to our heads,” Salvi said. “People are going to start saying that we’re No. 1, and we can’t start thinking that because we need to play every team.”

Winnike, who was disruptive in the Keough backfield all game, said the undefeated team has great chemistry.

“It was a really great season. In my four years this was the best team I’ve been a part of,” he said. “This is a great group of guys to be a part of. There’s great chemistry, a killer quarterback and a great coach.”

Dillon will take on their South Quad neighbors, Fisher, in the first round of the playoffs.

Stanford 14, O’Neill 0

Powered by aggressive defense and an effective passing game, Stanford closed out its regular season with a crucial victory over O’Neill Oct. 14. The win sent Stanford into the playoffs on a high note, while the loss marked the end of another season for O’Neill.

Both the Griffins (3-1) and the Angry Mob (2-2) entered the game with their playoff hopes in the balance. Coming off a loss, Stanford was eager to provide a decisive victory against O’Neill. While the Griffins’ running game struggled to establish itself early, senior quarterback Tony Rizzo was able to hook up with junior wide receiver Griffin Naylor for the first score of the game. Naylor hauled in a number of passes on the day, including a long catch on a key fourth down to set up Stanford’s second touchdown before halftime.

“We knew [Naylor] was the guy we would have to worry about coming in,” O’Neill junior coach Guy Schwartz said. “He still did a great job making plays.”

Despite O’Neill’s inability to lock down Naylor and what Schwartz referred to as “boneheaded plays” — including untimely penalties and zone breakdowns on defense — the Angry Mob was able to hang around until the very end.

Trying to mount a comeback in the fourth quarter, O’Neill junior quarterback J.P. McCabe led his team to inside the Stanford 5-yard line, but the Angry Mob was stopped on four consecutive plays. The goal-line stand, along with junior defensive back Dan Mulligan’s interception in the first half, highlighted the impressive performance of the Stanford defense.

“Our plan was, on defense, to be more aggressive,” Rizzo said. “Last game I think we played really soft and gave up a lot of yards.”

The importance of defense was not lost on Rizzo.

“When you don’t give up any points,” Rizzo said, “It’s hard to lose.”

The Angry Mob barely missed out on a playoff spot, falling just short in point differential. Stanford will face Siegfried as the No. 4 overall seed in the first round of this year’s playoffs.

Siegfried 12, Morrissey 7

It wasn’t pretty, but Siegfried got the result they were looking for, defeating Morrissey on Oct. 14 before heading home for Fall Break.

The Manor (2-2) dominated the first half, controlling the tempo on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. In fact, on their first drive of the game, Morrissey freshman quarterback Nick Conrad connected with one of his wide receivers to put the favored Ramblers (3-1) down 7-0 early.

The momentum shifted back to Siegfried quickly after halftime, though, as Siegfried senior linebacker Dan Scime intercepted an errant Conrad pass inside Manor territory.

“Their quarterback made a good read, but I made a better one,” Scime said. “That was a play worthy of beast house.”

Shortly after, Siegfried sophomore running back David Whitmore scored on a 15-yard option pitch.

“[Senior quarterback Matt] Meinart made a great pitch to me and I saw a hole and took it in,” Whitmore said.

Although the extra point was mishandled, Siegfried junior cornerback Sam Fenker intercepted another Conrad pass on the ensuing Manor drive.

Shortly after the pick, Meinert pulled off a 51-yard touchdown run to seal the game for the Ramblers.

“My touchdown run was the same play that we ran for Whitmore earlier,” Meinert said. “This time, the defense all thought the pitch was coming, making it easy for my to burst away from the pack.”

Now the Ramblers are in a place they feel the most comfortable — the playoffs. As the defending champion, Whitmore said Siegfried has its sights set on nothing less than a trip to the championship game in Notre Dame Stadium.

“In the second half, we played together as a team,” Whitmore said. “If we could play like this every game, we will be a dangerous team in the weeks to come.”

Quarterback Matt Meinert agreed with his running back.

“When we are playing like this, we are a force to be reckoned with,” Meinert said.

A coach-less and young Manor squad kept it close against a Siegfried squad which, besides having multiple seniors and three coaches, had a WNDU cameraman and reporter on their sideline.

Despite the potential distraction, Siegfried is back in the playoffs seeking yet another title. Their quest begins against Stanford next Sunday.

Zahm 14, St. Ed’s 7

Zahm closed out its season with a thrilling victory over St. Edward’s Oct. 14.

Though the Zahmbies (1-3) have suffered from a lack of scoring in recent years, the offense came alive late in the first half, sparked by a catch in the end zone for the first Zahm touchdown in three years.

The Zahmbies opened the second half with another touchdown scoring drive. Although the Gentlemen (1-3) threatened late in the game with a touchdown from of sophomore wide receiver Zach Siefring, the rally proved unsuccessful, with the game ending on a desperate but futile series of lateral passes.

A number of factors contributed to Zahm’s first win of the season.

“Heart. We came out with a lot of heart,” Zahm senior Dylan Fernandez said.

Despite the absence of senior captain Mark Pomerenke, the Zahmbies did have sustenance in the form of a pre-game pizza party, in keeping with their team motto of “Eat pizza, win games, eat more pizza.”

The Zahm defensive line also contributed to the winning effort. The unit is nicknamed the “SWAT Team,” and includes sophomore Tom Mealey and sophomore Brian Salat. The Zahmbie line knocked several pass attempts out of the air, shutting down the St. Edward’s passing attack.

Although the Zahmbies were pleased with their victorious effort, they did admit that they could have been more prepared for the game.

“We could have practiced more this past month,” Fernandez said.

The excitement did not extend to the Gentlemen’s sideline.

“Nothing went well,” St. Edward’s junior captain Jay Mathes said. “We were too concerned with putting points on the board, and Zahm came to win.”

The Gentlemen noticed that their players were not staying in position during much of the first half, but halftime adjustments weren’t enough to catch the Zahmbies.

“90 percent of the game is half mental, and we lost both halves,” St. Edward’s junior offensive lineman Ryan Kim said.

Although the Gentlemen were disappointed to end their season with a loss, they were pleased with the performance of junior defensive lineman Neil Mathieson, who had three sacks in his first game.

Both teams will have to turn in their pads as neither will be advancing to the playoffs.

Sorin 20, Carroll 2

In a potential offensive fireworks show between Sorin and Carroll, one team lit up the sky while the other used a wet fuse.

Sorin (3-1), behind its strong running game and stout defense, cruised to a victory over the previously undefeated Vermin on Oct. 14 at LaBar Fields.

The Otters employed a balanced attack to rack up 203 yards of total offense — 105 of those coming on the ground. Senior captain and running back Michael Browder sliced the Vermin defense for 82 yards on 15 carries.

“Our offensive line played really well. We just went double tight [end] the whole game basically and we were able to run it down their throats,” Browder said. “[The] offensive line just opened up a bunch of holes, made it easy for me and [junior fullback Matthew] Pepe.”

Pepe himself ran the ball for 75 yards on nine carries, including a 15-yard touchdown run out of the Wildcat formation and a key 30-yard third-down late in the second quarter.

Pepe’s run was just the beginning of an interesting series that put Sorin up two scores. On the next play, Sorin sophomore quarterback Ted Spinelli had a touchdown pass negated by a penalty. Two plays later, Carroll freshman defensive lineman Connor Miller sacked Spinelli, bringing up a third-and-15. After an incomplete pass, Spinelli connected with junior wide receiver Bobby Sullivan for 25 yards on fourth down, and the Otters were able to punch the ball into the end zone.

On its first two drives combined, Sorin ran 26 plays from scrimmage for 160 total yards.

Coming out of halftime, the tide appeared to be turning. Sparked by a 23-yard punt return by freshman wide receiver Bobby Dorman to the Sorin 36-yard line, Carroll’s offense drove inside the Otters’ 1-yard line before being turned away on four straight plays.

“We stepped up,” Browder said. “We haven’t been playing well on the goal line and we just made it happen. We had a couple big plays by our defensive linemen and our linebackers.”

The following Sorin series saw an errant snap roll out of the end zone for a Carroll safety. Those were, however, the only points the Vermin would score on the night. Carroll managed only three first downs and a meager 10 yards rushing.

“[We have] great momentum. This is the best game we’ve played all year,” Browder said. “Our offense is clicking, our defense is playing well.”

Both teams will play in the first playoff round this weekend, with Sorin matching up against Morrissey and Carroll clashing with Alumni.