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COLIN REIMER, DAN MURPHY and FRAN TOLAN | Tuesday, September 27, 2005

In tight, defensive battles, the winner is usually decided by special teams and turnovers, and whether or not the opponent can capitalize on them. Zahm did just that Sunday, recovering two Sorin fumbles and dominating on special teams en route to a 12-0 victory.

On a rain-soaked afternoon, Bats quarterback Sean Wieland completed 6-of-12 passes for 73 yards and two second quarter touchdowns, both to wide receiver Jake Richardville to provide the only scoring for the contest.

Meanwhile, the stellar Zahm defense contained Sorin’s spread attack throughout the game and had constant pressure on Otter quarterback Stu Mora. The Bats’ special teams also came through in the clutch, blocking a first quarter field goal and also springing punt returner/running back Theo Ossei-Anto for a huge return that set up Zahm’s second score.

The big story was the weather, though, as both teams struggled to adapt to the slippery ball. There were several botched snaps on both sides, but it was Zahm that was able to capitalize.

Following a scoreless first quarter, Sorin started deep in its own territory. But, playing in a shotgun set they seemed uncomfortable with all day, the Otters botched a snap, which Zahm recovered on Sorin’s 24 yard line. Zahm capitalized immediately with Wieland’s 24 yard strike to Richardville.

A few possessions later, Sorin was forced to punt to Zahm’s Ossei-Anto.

Ossei-Anto, who also finished with 38 yards rushing, fielded the punt around his own 40, found a crease, and streaked down the Bats’ sideline for an apparent touchdown. The return was called back, however, because of a clipping penalty, and Zahm was forced to take over at the Otter 41.

But the penalty did not phase the Bats offense, as Wieland promptly drove his team downfield and hit Richardville once again for the score, this time from 15 yards out. The touchdown closed out a 12 point second quarter for Zahm, and essentially sealed the victory.

The second half was sloppy, with numerous fumbled snaps and incomplete passes.

Both defenses held tough as the rain began to pick up.

“Every team has to play through it,” said Sorin captain Pete Laviorini, referring to his team’s struggles with the wet football. “We beat ourselves today. Bad snaps. Blown plays.

“We just shot ourselves in the foot too many times.”

Although Sorin’s offense struggled, the Bats defense has to be credited for their stellar play.

“Our run defense was great,” Zahm captain Pat Gourley said. “The defensive line picked it up and put some pressure on their quarterback. But a lot of it had to do with tight coverage.”

The Bats had plenty of pressure on Mora all day, holding him to 6-of-13 passing for 84 yards, the bulk of which came on a 56-yard bomb to receiver Chris Bailey on the Otters’ first possession.

Late in the third quarter, Mora led Sorin into Zahm territory, threatening to cut the lead in half. But the Bats’ defense held solid, forcing Mora into incompletions and eventually a turnover on downs.

The only other Sorin threat came on their first drive of the game following Mora’s 56-yard completion to Bailey. With Sorin looking to strike first, Zahm’s defense stiffened and forced a 30-yard field goal attempt, which was blocked.

This was a microcosm of the game, as Sorin seemed to squander any opportunity that it had. Yet despite the disappointing outcome, Laviorini remained positive.

“I think that we have the ability to beat Zahm any other day, but we just didn’t get it done this time around,” he said.

Fisher 6, Knott 0

The men of Fisher Hall had much more on their minds this week than Sunday’s interhall game against Knott.

Earlier this week the life of 23-year-old Tim Solic, a former Notre Dame student and Fisher resident, was tragically cut short. Many members of the team flew to Pennsylvania on Friday to attend the funeral services. They dedicated their 6-0 win over the Juggerknotts to the memory of Solic.

The weather played a definite role in this defensive battle. A cold, rainy day slowed the passing attacks of both teams. Both quarterbacks, Fisher’s Pat Gotabeski and Knott’s Matt Whittington, were held to three completions apiece. Whittington was intercepted by Tom Hessert in the fourth quarter to seal the win for the Fishermen.

The game’s only touchdown was scored on the first drive of the game when Kevin Rabil broke loose in the end zone and came down with a 19-yard score. The extra point attempt failed, but Fisher already had all the points it would need. The pass was the culmination of a 65-yard march down the field in which Gotabeski passed for 40 yards and Tom Sullivan ran for 20. However, Sullivan went down with an ankle injury at the end of the drive and was unable to play for the remainder of the game.

Without Sullivan, Fisher turned to sophomore tailback Tom Bufalino to carry the offense. The big back had 12 carries, nine of them coming in the second half.

“The plan was to split time with Sullivan because of his bad ankle, but I didn’t expect to see this much action.” Bufalino said.

Despite his hard running, the Knott defense was able to hold Fisher in check as both teams were forced to punt six times in the second half.

Knott once again had a tough time on the offensive side of the ball, failing to score for the second straight week. A combination of inclement weather and poor field position kept the Juggerknotts from sniffing the goal line. Three times in the second half the team was pinned inside the 20-yard line to start its drive. With the passing game struggling, the team turned to running back Matt Segobiano. Other than big plays of 11 and 23 yards Segobiano was also bottled up by the inspired Fisher defense.

It was clear from the first snap that Fisher was determined to start off the season right and honor Solic with a win. However, in a postgame meeting the team was already looking forward to another tough game against Carroll next Sunday. Knott, which fell to 0-2 with the loss, has a week off to try to work the kinks out of its offense.

Carroll 6, Siegfried 0

In a rain-soaked affair on Sunday afternoon, Carroll topped Siegfried 6-0 for its first win of the season. It wasn’t pretty but Carroll took advantage of enough Siegfried mistakes to eke out a win.

The contest saw seven turnovers, a blocked punt and a blocked extra point.

Five of the turnovers were interceptions as the sloppy conditions led to a slippery ball and sloppy play.

But Carroll managed to punch one in the end zone – no easy task in this game.

An 18-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Kory Wilmot to Paul Tassinari capped the game’s lone scoring drive. After a scoreless first half and several failed possessions to begin the third, the Vermin finally managed to capitalize.

Mike Johnson’s interception was followed by two Carroll first downs.

In the fourth quarter, Carroll was able to force a turnover – as Mike Johnson picked off a Siegfried pass – and run much of the remaining time off the clock. Wilmot repeatedly gave the ball to running back Mark Bennett, who ran for several first downs. When Siegfried finally got the ball back, the Vermin defense made a strong stand. It refused to give up substantial yardage and forced a turnover on downs to guarantee a Carroll victory.

“We definitely won this game in the trenches,” Wilmot said. “We controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, which is very important on a day like today.”

Carroll is looking forward to next weekend’s game against rival Fisher.

“We wouldn’t mind some better weather either,” Wilmot said.

Siegfried looks ahead to next Sunday’s showdown with Sorin.