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Wilcox: Examining the Battle for the Chapel

Alex Wilcox | Wednesday, November 14, 2012

At Notre Dame, two things are taken very seriously: football and religion. In the annual Keenan-Stanford interhall football game, known as the “Battle for the Chapel,” the two are combined to create a rivalry unlike any other.

“[Keenan] is the absolute worst competition you can imagine, and to top it off, this year they’re actually good,” Stanford senior captain Paul Babiak said.

Keenan senior captain Andrew McDonough said the Knights’ annual matchup against Stanford is always an intense battle.

“Every game I’ve played against Stanford, regardless of our records or how the team is, is always the most physical, hardest hitting game on the schedule,” Keenan senior captain Andrew McDonough said. “I’m always sore a week after the game, which is a testament to how both teams get after it.”

Stanford and Keenan live in adjacent buildings and share a chapel. The winner’s name appears first on the chapel, which has been known as the Keenan-Stanford Chapel since Keenan beat Stanford 19-7 last year.,

For these two dorms, the game is as much about pride as anything else.

“Honestly there’s nothing like beating Keenan,” Babiak said. “You just get this unbelievable high after beating Keenan and then having the chapel named after you, it’s just great.”

“[Winning] just proves the fact that Keenan is better than Stanford,” McDonough said. “Everyone already knows that, but beating them at football just proves our domination. It keeps the proper name of the chapel and continues Keenan pride.”

While a rivalry so strong makes winning twice as sweet, it also makes defeat that much worse.

“Last year though (Stanford lost to Keenan 19-7) was just awful,” said Babiak. “It’s like losing to your little brother.”

This year’s version of the rivalry, played on Oct. 7,, held playoff implications, making it even more meaningful for both squads..

“If we don’t win this game, we don’t make the playoffs,” Babiak said before the game. “It’s got to happen, and it would just make it so much sweeter knowing it would be beating Keenan for the Battle for the Chapel.”

“This is the game on the schedule we want to win the most,” McDonough said prior to the matchup. “It’s always great to beat them and it would be great to send them home out of the playoffs. As their archrival, we’d like nothing better than to knock them out.”

McDonough held true to his word, as he passed for one touchdown and ran for another to lead Keenan to a 13-0 victory in this year’s game. As predicted, the game was a physical and intense contest, as both sides drew multiple personal foul penalties and one player was even ejected.

Regardless of whether it has playoff implications, the “Battle for the Chapel”always has a lot of juice, and is a source of pride and bragging rights running far beyond the one day on which it is played. .

Contact Alex Wilcox at awilcox1@nd.edu