Keenan aims for second title in three seasons
Hunter McDaniel | Thursday, November 20, 2014
Keenan will return to Notre Dame Stadium on Sunday to play for a championship against Morrissey after falling in the semifinals a year ago.
Junior linebacker JC Sullivan said the upperclassmen’s memories of playing in the Stadium have been crucial to the team’s efforts all season. (Editor’s note: Sullivan is a regular Viewpoint columnist for The Observer).
“All the juniors and up got the chance to play in the stadium [in 2012], and it was a really unforgettable experience that we will take with us for the rest of our lives,” Sullivan said. “I think what’s really motivated us to lead this team and to find success has been so that we can provide the underclassmen with that same experience that we had.”The undefeated Knights (5-0-1) have run through their opponents this year in ways similar to those seen during their championship season two years ago, dominating on both sides of the ball. The only game this season that Keenan did not win was a 6-6 tie against Keough.
“Offensively, we run the spread a lot,” junior quarterback Aaron DiGenova said. ”I’ve never played quarterback before this year, but we try to go four wide receivers and spread people out. A lot of plays break down, we scramble a lot, so that’s kind of been our offensive scheme this year out of the spread.”
The other side of the ball has been equally strong, junior captain and middle linebacker Jon Wiese said.
“Really, our defensive philosophy is that we’re just going to straight up outplay you,” Wiese said. “We don’t feel like we need to especially scheme for other teams. We’ve scored 20 points on defense and only let up six, so I feel like we’re doing something right.”
The staunch defensive play of the Knights can be heavily attributed to the overall athleticism of the players, sophomore safety and receiver Michael Koller said.
“I feel like we just have a lot of athletes making plays back there on defense, especially linebackers and our defensive backs are getting picks, getting fumbles,” Koller said. “I feel like there’s a lot of guys contributing all across the defense, so it’s not so much that we have to scheme, but people being athletes.”
Senior running back Chris Dearolf added that a new group of underclassmen has been important to Keenan’s success this season.
“In general, all the freshmen have really stepped up,” Dearolf said. “It’s been a huge addition to our team to have young talent come in who are energetic and really excited to play football and just go out there and make plays.”
Sullivan said defensive end Will Boeschenstein was a freshman who made his mark on the Keenan defense this season.
“Boeschenstein has been an energy guy,” Sullivan said. “He’s been crucial to our success, and he’s been a freshman that’s really stepped up in a big way and contributed on a number of fronts to this team.”
Freshman linebacker Tony Rogari is another first-year player who has positively impacted the defense’s performance, Koller said.
“I think Tony Rogari has really showed up to play this year,” Koller said. “He’s always hitting the hole hard, and he’s really been doing everything we’ve asked him to do and more, so I think he’s really working his ass off.”
Though Keenan believes its base defense allows the team to skip scheming for specific opponents, Wiese said it recognized No. 1-seed Morrissey (6-0) as a formidable opponent.
“Morrissey is obviously a solid team,” Wiese said. “They’ve won every single game they’ve played. They have — I mean, from what we’ve seen of them — a varied attack, solid defense, not really any glaring weaknesses, which in interhall is huge. They seem to be a very disciplined team with good fundamentals. It’s gonna be a good game, but we feel like if we play to our potential, there’s not a team we can’t beat.”
The Knights take on the Manor for the men’s interhall title at 3:30 p.m. Sunday in Notre Dame Stadium.