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Purple Weasels, Ducks fight for title again

Jack Hefferon | Thursday, November 11, 2010

Two teams with a history will meet again Sunday when No. 1 Howard takes on No. 2 Pasquerilla West in Notre Dame Stadium with another interhall championship on the line.

In last year’s championship game, the Ducks (6-0) were able to outlast the Purple Weasels (6-0) 13-7 in a tension-filled contest. Howard grabbed a first-half 13-0 lead, and was able to hold the explosive Purple Weasel offense to just one touchdown the rest of the way. Howard senior captain and quarterback Kayla Bishop remembers it well.

“It was very close and really hard fought on both sides. Our defense helped us hold on in the second half, and we were able to win the game,” Bishop said.

Pasquerilla West senior captain Libby Koerbel, on the other hand, said she hopes to learn from what went wrong last year.

“We came out super hyped up. We were really confident, and expected to score right away,” Koerbel said. “That didn’t happen, and we got really down. It was hard to come back after that.”

This year, the Ducks are undefeated once again, and once again hold the top seed after dominating Blue League play. In fact, Howard has won 15 straight games, with its last loss coming over two years ago at the hands of, of course, Pasquerilla West. 

Howard advanced to this point by easily besting a tough Pangborn squad last week, 31-0. Bishop believes that win was her team’s best effort yet.

“Last week showed us how good we can be at picking apart a defense and finding holes in their zone,” Bishop said. “And our defense stepped up as always, especially in the red zone.”

The Purple Weasels, on the other hand, have prevailed in close contests in their first two rounds, defeating Lewis and McGlinn by a combined seven points. While these margins may have been slim, Koerbel believes that her team is continuing to improve its play.

“Against Lewis, we played terrible. Our defense was slow, and our offense was pretty much anemic,” Koerbel said. “I feel really good about our defense after last week, though. Our defense was on the field for about 80 percent of the game, but we got some big stops, and our defensive linemen played great, especially [sophomore defensive lineman] Meghan Schmitt. She played unbelievable.”

Pasquerilla West will need that defense to step up again against the wide-open spread offense of Howard, which is averaging over 21 points a game. 

On the other side of the ball, the Purple Weasels will attempt to move the ball using their misdirecting triple-option scheme that has carried them thus far. That offense is led by senior quarterback Simone Bigi, who must read the defense and determine how to attack it on each play.

“The triple option really gives us a lot more versatility, and really forces the defense to stay on their toes and stay home,” Bigi said. “The reason it’s been so successful so far is our coach, Tim Bossidy. He helped to implement the offense and is really responsible for developing me as a quarterback.”

The outcome of the game may very well rest on the Ducks’ ability to stop the triple option, which is unlike anything they have seen this year. But while the Purple Weasels’ scheme may be new to Howard, Bishop believes that her Ducks will be able to stop it.

“We’re really going to rely on our defensive linemen and linebackers to follow the ball and make plays. Flag pulling will be key,” Bishop said. “We’re expecting a lot out of junior defensive lineman Jenny Gassner and junior safety Caroline Walsh. Bigi has got a great arm for them, and we need Caroline to keep them from going deep.”

At the end of the day, both teams said they believe that their team unity will carry them to victory.

“Even though our dorm may be large, we’re really close on and off the field. Everything is so close to clicking for us, and I think it will all come together on Sunday,” Koerbel said.

Bishop echoed a similar sentiment.

“Last year, we proved that we are capable of winning a championship, even from a dorm as small as Howard. I think that gave our girls confidence in themselves,” Bishop said. “For us seniors it’s been a great four years, and it’s kind of surreal that it’s coming to a close. There’s no better way to go out though, then in another championship game in the Stadium.”

Kickoff will be 11 a.m. Sunday.