The Observer is a student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame, Saint Mary's & Holy Cross. Learn about us.



Big Red has made a history of playing in close games this year

Mike Gilloon | Friday, November 14, 2003

If teams are defined by how they react when their backs are against the wall, then Dillon is an exceptional football team. The Big Red are undefeated heading into the men’s interhall championship this Sunday against Siegfried, with four of their six victories coming by a touchdown or less.

Dillon’s resiliency was tested early in the year against archrival Alumni. Kicker Brian Fallon booted a field goal with 27 seconds left to break a scoreless tie and defeat the Dawgs. This kick came after three earlier Big Red field goal attempts were blocked.

“We pride ourselves in finding a way to win,” said junior tailback Ben Butwin. “We don’t have a coach, so we look to our leaders and captains to motivate us.”

Dillon entered its last regular season game against Keenan undefeated with a defense that had yet to give up a point. This changed quickly as the Knights opened up the first half with a touchdown.

The Big Red’s woes continued later on, when quarterback Michael Johnson had to leave the game with a dislocated shoulder. Freshman backup AJ Cedeno performed well in his place and led the team to a 14-8 victory.

“I hadn’t played a single down in a game all year,” Cedeno said. “But I had confidence in my team to get the job done. All I had to do was hand the ball off, and we got the victory.”

After another close call, a 7-0 triumph over Sorin in the quarterfinals, the Big Red prepared for a rematch with Keenan. This game was a classic; it went into four overtimes, with Dillon coming out on top, 13-6.

“That game was a nailbiter,” Butwin said. “It was by far the toughest game I’ve played in.”

The teams were tied 3-3 when Keenan kicker Andrew Warner missed a 35-yard field goal as time expired in regulation. Johnson scored the game-winning touchdown for the Big Red in the fourth overtime.

The Big Red defense was tested like never before in this game but came up with stops when they were needed most to preserve the victory.

“Our success this season has been a real team effort,” said captain JT Arseniadis. “There is no one player that is a stand out.”

Senior linebacker Robert McBride attributes Dillon’s success to the amount of preparation that the team puts in.

“We practice three times a week, along with scouting our opponents and watching film,” he said.

Despite all the close calls this year, the Big Red haven’t let the fear of a loss affect them too much.

“I’d be lying if I said we haven’t been afraid at any time this year,” Butwin said. “But even when we have been down we’ve kept a positive attitude.”

Arseniadis agreed.

“There is always fear when you’re backed up against the wall,” he said. “But this year we have executed and played smart, and that is the mark of a great team.”

When it comes to Sunday’s game, Dillon will be happy with any kind of victory.

“It would be exciting to have a ”Sportscenter’ type of last-minute win,” Cedeno said. “But it would be a compliment to our team if we won big.”

Arseniadis summed up his team’s attitude.

“Hey, a win’s a win.”

As they have shown all year long, the Big Red will take what they can get.