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Men’s Interhall Football: Zahm follows a traditional championship formula

Joe Meixell | Friday, November 18, 2005

If a team is going to be interhall champion, it has to do two things: run and play defense. And there is no better example in 2005 of this championship formula than the Rabid Bats of Zahm.

Zahm, led by running backs Theo Ossei-Anto and Cameron Muhlenkamp, has run all over its opponents throughout the regular season and in the playoffs.

In the Bats’ most recent game, the semifinal match against Morrissey Manor, the two running backs combined for more than 100 yards – 71 from Ossei-Anto and 42 from Mulhenkamp. More importantly, Zahm scored its sole touchdown on a one-yard run by Ossei-Anto.

The Rabid Bats might not have made the playoffs – and certainly would not have been the top-ranked undefeated team – without the play of Theo Ossei-Anto.

“Theo has had a great impact on this year’s team,” Zahm captain Pat Gourley said. “He’s quick, and even though he is a little guy, he still is very tough.”

Mulhenkamp, who lines up in front of Ossei-Anto at fullback, has also been a vital component of the Rabid Bats’ successes this season. With his size and strength, Muhlenkamp has been able to find the holes in opposing defensive lines and create holes of his own where there are none to get short-yardage gains needed this season.

Zahm’s offense this year scored nine touchdowns, and although the scores were about evenly distributed between passing and rushing, the drives were clearly propelled by the powerful running back duo of Ossei-Anto and Muhlenkamp. But the rushing touchdowns are not the sole glory of the running backs, and the team is content with its offensive balance in the red zone.

With a solid offensive line that can create holes for the running backs, Zahm’s rushing offense is often overpowering.

“The offensive line has been essential in our offense this year,” Gourley said. “They open all the holes and help us get the scores.”

The Zahm defense has also played exceptionally well, forcing turnovers at opportune times and, more importantly, not allowing big plays by its opponents.

With the semifinal on the line, Muhlenkamp, who doubles as running back and outside linebacker, stepped up and made a game-changing interception that propelled the Rabid Bats into the Stadium.

The defense contained and crushed opposing offenses all year and hopes to do so one more time Sunday.

To shut down any pass attempts by the opponent’s quarterback, corners Kris Patterson and Eddie Gutierrez have kept opposing receivers in check. But Gourley said the entire defense deserves the credit for the Bats’ unblemished record.

“There are no single [defensive] players that I can identify as the best,” he said. “Our corners have been stepping up all year, the whole defensive line is playing great this year and our middle linebackers are stuffing the run. Overall, it’s been a great year on defense.”

This year’s No. 1 seed is not the first to recognize that success in interhall football rests on mastering defense and rushing. Past finals games have exhibited the importance of a solid defense.

In the 2003 championship game, both Dillon and Siegfried relied mainly on incredible defenses to reach the finals. Dillon’s defense allowed only 17 points all year, while Siegfried entered the championship game by forcing turnovers throughout the postseason.

Keenan, 2004 champion, dominated teams all season with a 7-0 record thanks to powerful running back Alex Staffieri and fullback Reed Langton. The Knights’ opponent last year, Knott, had a 2-2 record in the regular season but won its first two playoff games with a stingy defense that forced four interceptions.

Although the championship was dominated by passing attacks, it was the steady running games that brought the two teams to the finals.

Zahm has the two key ingredients for success waiting for the championship game on Sunday. Ossei-Anto and Muhlenkamp stand ready to pound the Knights, a relentless rushing attack against a defense that has proved itself in all six games this year.