Manor look to complete drastic turnaround
Marek Mazurek | Thursday, November 20, 2014
When No. 1 Morrissey takes on No. 2 Keenan at Notre Dame Stadium on Sunday, it does not plan on focusing on the stage.
“To be honest, we could play this game in the middle of South Quad and our goal would stay the same; that’s to win the championship,” junior running back and captain Erik Rayno said.
Junior running back Hunter White said there will be no extra pressure heading into Sunday’s game.
“There’s never any extra pressure,” White said. “We always go 100 percent. It doesn’t matter what our record is, we’re making it happen every play, I don’t care where [the game] is at.”
The Manor (6-0) defeated Stanford, 8-0, last Sunday to reach the title tilt in their first playoff appearance in four years.
Senior receiver Tim Cole and senior coach Kevin Berens attribute this dramatic turnaround to Morrissey’s increased emphasis on preparation this year.
“It’s pretty unbelievable, coming from three years in a row of not being good at all,” Cole said. “We kind of relied on talent over preparation the first three years and now we practice twice a week and it makes a huge difference. It’s a tribute to our captain Erik [Rayno].”
“I think it’s really just dedication, getting your work done during the week in practice,” Berens said. “A lot of these guys have been together for four years now, and the talent’s always been there. As soon as you can get those two practices a week in, you can really iron out the mistakes on game day and eliminate the penalties. It makes your team a lot better.”
Rayno said the key was simply installing a sense of discipline in Morrissey’s mindset.
“I’m a junior,” Rayno said. “Since I got here, it’s been very obvious to me that I was surrounded by pretty awesome talent both on offense and defense, and I knew that it would just take a little bit of discipline to basically put it all together. … We started to get into a good practice schedule, we worked on offense and defense tirelessly and now we’re playing for the championship.”
Rayno also gave much of the credit for the team’s performance to the coaching of Berens.
“Ever since I met Kevin, I’ve known that he is a sports mastermind,” Rayno said. “He understands offense and defense. Losing him next year is actually going to be our biggest hit. Kevin keeps us moving the ball efficiently down the field. He’s an asset that I couldn’t put a price on for this team. … I couldn’t say enough good things about him.”
Whether or not Morrissey’s hard work will result in a championship is still up in the air, but Rayno said he feels confident about the team’s chances as long as everyone executes. Rayno said the key to the game is ball security.
“No matter what defense you’re facing you want to protect the football,” Rayno said. “You take care of the football and the football will take care of you. … If we don’t turn the ball over and put up a couple points, I think we’ll be in a decent place this weekend.”
Offensively, junior quarterback Ryan Lindquist said Morrissey’s focus will be on the running game.
“When you have the best running back in the league [White], it should always be focused on [the run],” junior quarterback Ryan Lindquist said. “When our line protects well — and it always does — the game just kind of comes. We have some big play threats and we just let it come to us.”
“We love running the ball,” Rayno said. “We run the ball effectively to open up the pass. We make the hole for [White] and he’s going to make it happen for us.”
Defensively, senior linebacker Tom Rogers said the key will be to stay disciplined.
“Keenan runs a spread,” Rogers said. “Our defense has been stout all year. … We can’t miss our assignments in the passing game and we’ll be just fine.”
With the championship game looming large, Berens said he feels confident in his team’s chances.
“I trust my guys,” Berens said. “I think it’s going to be a good game. I’ve got a lot of respect for Keenan. They have some good athletes, some good talent. There going to try and spread us out [and] hopefully we can answer them. … I think we’re going to come out on top.”