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Men’s Interhall: Senior quarterbacks lead squads to finals

Casey Karnes | Friday, November 16, 2012

When No. 1 Sorin and No. 2 Keenan face off Sunday there will be a buzz in the air. Few are offered the chance to run out of the tunnel at Notre Dame Stadium, and only a luckier few can claim a victory on the storied field.

Both teams this year know they can draw strength and confidence from their senior quarterbacks. Keenan’s Andrew McDonough and Sorin’s Ted Spinelli have been key cogs in their teams’ success this year.

Experience is the key word in this matchup of two of the top quarterbacks in all of interhall football. Both are multi-year starters, but their development began at the high school level.

After playing both quarterback and linebacker in high school, Spinelli saw interhall as the next step in his career. He started at quarterback right out of the gates as a freshman for the Otters, but an injury cut that season short. Spinelli returned for his sophomore year and since then has led Sorin (6-0) to the title game in all three seasons, with one victory and a chance for a second this weekend.

In the 2010 final Spinelli connected on a game-winning pass in overtime.

“My fondest memory was definitely winning in the Stadium sophomore year,” Spinelli said. “The whole dorm rushed the field, and that was a really great experience.”

While last year’s team was unable to pull out the victory, Spinelli said he believes his team is up for the challenge again.

“[Our experience in the championship] is good for us,” Spinelli said. “We won’t be intimidated. But it’s still Notre Dame Stadium, so that gives everyone a big thrill.”

On the other side of the ball, McDonough may lack Spinelli’s championship experience, but he took advantage of a unique opportunity last spring.

“When I studied abroad, I was able to play semi-professional football for a team in Berlin, Germany,” McDonough said. “It was a great way to stay in shape, play against great competition, and continue to develop as a quarterback.”

McDonough, with both his rushing and throwing ability, has led Keenan (5-0-1) to an undefeated record in his second season as a starter. After losing in the first round of the playoffs last season, McDonough said merely making the championship isn’t enough for the Knights.

“We’ve really focused on taking each game one at a time, taking seven steps to the championship,” McDonough said. “Right now we’re on step seven, and we have to take the final step and win this game.”

The similarities between these two quarterbacks go beyond their performance on the field and drive to win. Both signal-callers have won the respect and admiration of their teammates.

“Andrew’s work ethic is unparalleled by anybody,” Keenan senior defensive lineman Tyler Gregory said. “I can honestly say he cares about [Keenan football] more than I’ve ever seen anyone care about a sport.”

McDonough brushed off the praise, crediting his lineman and receivers for Keenan’s resurgence.

“We take one man off this team, and I don’t know that we’d be here,” McDonough said. “It took a 24-man effort.”

While Spinelli similarly gave the credit for the Otters’ successful season to his teammates, they acknowledged that he was key to their success.

“He’s a really good leader,” Sorin junior defensive lineman Taylor Nutter said. “He’s always there when you need him. He is great at bringing the team together, a good friend a good captain all together.”

By fighting to recover from a regular-season neck injury that sent him to the hospital, Spinelli has demonstrated his leadership and led Sorin back to the championship. Spinelli said he will be 100 percent ready for Sunday.

As for McDonough, he is eagerly awaiting his final interhall game.

“[My fondest memory of interhall] hasn’t happened yet, because it will be running through that tunnel on Sunday,” McDonough said.