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MEN’S INTERHALL PLAYOFFS: Knights smack Sorin, advance to semifinals

Joe Meixell | Tuesday, November 1, 2005

The second-seeded Keenan Knights were able to shut down the “run and gun” Sorin offense to win their first round playoff game Sunday by a score of 14-0. Safety Adam Fischer intercepted a pass at the end of the fourth quarter to seal the deal. The pick, which was the Knights’ third of the day, capped off another solid defensive performance for Keenan.

The Knights’ offense relied on its workhorse running back, Alex Staffieri, and big plays out of Keenan’s receivers. Staffieri ran hard all day for the Knights, carrying the ball 16 times and effectively running down the clock in the second half. Quarterback Rob Coly was only 3-for-11 passing, but those three completions were all big plays – the last of which being a 60-yard touchdown pass to his favorite target, Dan Zenker. Zenker caught the ball on a fade route and showboated his way into the end zone giving the Knights a 14-0 lead.

The team’s first touchdown came on its opening drive and was aided by Zenker and fellow receiver John Wanek. Wanek’s 15-yard slant route brought Keenan down to the 3-yard line, and two plays later Coly was able to punch it in for the score on a quarterback sneak. After a successful extra point the Knights were out to an early 7-0 lead.

Sorin’s offense once again struggled to move the ball. The Otters failed to find the end zone for the third time this season. Despite having good field position throughout most of the contest, the lack of a consistent running game kept Sorin under 75 yards of total offense on the day.

Late in the first half the team began two consecutive drives in Keenan territory. But both chances ended with quarterback Stu Mora throwing interceptions after being hurried by defensive pressure. The second pick halted what looked to be Sorin’s best chance to get on the scoreboard and tie the game. Wide receiver Kevin Tooke had two big catches and the offense was moving well before the Knights’ Scott Morin stepped in front of a pass for an interception and ended the threat.

Even though the Knights won, the players seemed to agree it was far from their best showing as the Sorin defense was able to contain Keenan’s powerful running game.

“Running is normally our bread and butter, we just couldn’t get it going today.” Keenan’s Adam Fischer said.

He attributed the struggling ground game to a poor week of practice. In a postgame meeting the team seemed determined to prepare better for next week’s matchup.

The Knights will face off against Carroll next Sunday for a chance to play in Notre Dame Stadium for the second straight year. Sorin finished its season with a 2-3 record and will have to wait until next year for another chance at achieving interhall glory.

Morrissey 13, Siegfried 7

With 23 seconds remaining on the clock in a tie game, and his team on the Siegfried 1-yard line, Morrissey captain Nick Klein wasn’t about to let the Manorites squander an opportunity for a first-round playoff victory Sunday.

“I knew this was gonna be our last shot to get in the end zone, and a field goal is a lot riskier than punching it in, so I saw the hole and just launched myself into the end zone,” Klein said.

The touchdown ended a 44-yard scoring drive and put Morrissey up by six, sealing the victory over Siegfried.

The winning drive was started when a bad snap combined with Morrissey pressure forced star kicker Pablo Nava to boot the ball off the ground instead of picking it up and dropkicking it. The play resulted in a 17-yard punt, giving the Manorites excellent field position.

Siegfried had its chances of a winning drive negated by a ten-yard holding penalty with 13 seconds left, its fifth penalty of the game.

“Mentally, we were a little too excited for the game and we overplayed too much on little things like the count and holding,” Siegfried captain Marques Bolden said. “Not to take away from Morrissey because they’re a really good team, but we could’ve been more competitive if we did the little things.”

Morrissey dominated ball control during the game, putting together several long drives.

The Manorites had nine first downs and went 3-for-3 on fourth down conversions.

“We have a lot of confidence in our line to buckle down and push for a couple of yards, and we have a great fullback in Steve [Klein] who can push it in when we really need it,” said Nick Klein, who rushed for 86 yards on 19 carries.

Klein went on to personally credit his offensive line of John Bush, Joe Walker, Stephen Dias, Anthony Cunningham, Joseph Unis Jr. and Michael Kaiser for helping him gain 86 yards on 19 carries.

Siegfried running back Matt Wopperer had nine carries for 90 yards and quarterback Steve Uphaus threw 4-for-8 for 80 yards as the Ramblers had 184 yards of total offense, outgaining the Manorites by 48 yards.

Morrissey’s defense, however, cashed in some clutch plays to keep the game close. Dan Kiesa kept the game tied early by intercepting a pass intended for Bolden at the Morrissey one-yard line, while Bush had two third-down sacks to force punts. Bush also blocked a Siegfried field goal in the third quarter that would have given the Ramblers a three-point lead.

“I really don’t know what happened on special teams, because usually that’s one of our best teams, but today we just weren’t there mentally to keep our blocking assignments,” Bolden said.

Morrissey got on the board first when Nick Klein punched it in from 2 yards in the second quarter to cap a 62-yard drive.

Siegfried quickly tied it up on its next possession when Uphaus connected with Bolden for a 21-yard touchdown pass with 39 seconds left in the first half.

Though the season is over sooner than he had hoped, Bolden has no regrets.

“I wouldn’t change anything about this season,” he said. “We had a great team, great guys … I just wish we had won this game. It’s nice knowing that my last year of playing football was with such a great group of guys.”

Zahm 14, O’Neill 0

The Rabid Bats’ defensive line recorded seven sacks as the secondary bent, but never broke, to preserve Zahm’s shutout over O’Neill in the first round of men’s interhall playoffs Sunday. Three times Zahm forced O’Neill to turn the ball over on downs inside the red zone as it advances to play Morrissey in the second round next weekend.

Trailing 14-0 after the half, O’Neill had the ball on its own 20-yard line after forcing Zahm to go three and out. O’Neill began a drive deep into Zahm territory as quarterback Matt Hughey was 5-for-5 for 51 yards passing on the series to get to the Zahm 17-yard line as the third quarter came to a close. But the Zahm defense made some adjustments before the fourth quarter started.

“We moved up our corners and played tighter on the receivers and jammed them at the line,” Zahm captain and safety Pat Gourley said.

The adjustment worked. Hughey threw two incompletions to start the fourth quarter, was sacked by Jake McDonald on third down, and threw incomplete on fourth and 11, giving Zahm the ball back.

On the ensuing drive, Zahm, facing the wind, decided to fake a punt on fourth-and-24 from its own 15-yard line. The play gained 20 yards, but failed to pick up the first down and O’Neill had the ball on the Zahm 35. But their hopes of a quick score were dashed when Eddie Gutierrez intercepted Hughey on the 20.

Despite this setback, all hope was not yet lost for O’Neill. With 1:44 left, on their own 23, Zahm quarterback Sean Wieland dropped back and threw a lateral in the slot to running back Theo Ossei-Anto. But the ball was fumbled and recovered by O’Neill’s Cormac Harkins. Harkins went untouched into the end zone for what seemed to be a touchdown to put O’Neill within one score. However, the score was brought back due to a block-in-the-back penalty. O’Neill had the ball on the 18-yard line, but two incompletions and two sacks by Bob McQuiston later, the game was over.

Penalties also hurt O’Neill on Zahm’s first scoring drive. The Rabid Bats used a steady rushing attack and a pass interference penalty to drive into O’Neill territory. However, they faced a fourth and 12 on the 14 and decided to go for it. Wieland’s pass fell incomplete, but Zahm kept the ball thanks to a roughing the passer penalty on O’Neill. Three plays later Wieland found tight end Seth Freiesleben for a touchdown to put Zahm up 6-0. The Rabid Bats sacked Hughey three times on the next drive to force a turnover on downs at the Zahm 25. Two plays later, Wieland found Kris Patterson down the right sideline for a 72-yard touchdown reception. Ossei-Anto ran in the 2-point conversion to make it 14-0.

Hughey, when he wasn’t being sacked, found holes in the Zahm secondary through the first three quarters, going 7-for-7 for 93 yards, but was 0-for-6 in the final quarter after Zahm adjusted its defense.

Zahm’s offense stalled in the second half, only picking up one first down.

“Hats off to their defense,” Rabid Bats assistant coach Joe Waddington said. “They hammered us on the line and got pressure on our [quarterback].”

“This wasn’t our best game,” Gourley said. “We are 0-0 again. If we lose, we go home and Morrissey [which defeated Siegfried 13-7 in its quarterfinal game] is a tough, physical team. So we have to be ready for them.”

Hughey wasn’t too down about the loss for the Angry Mob.

“We had a great season,” Hughey said. “We didn’t accomplish all of our goals, but we did get into the playoffs. That’s the first time O’Neill has done that. I’m definitely proud of them and the way we competed.”

Carroll 13, Dillon 12

Carroll’s defense bent but did not break in the first half, holding a powerful Dillon offense led by running back Alex Duffy to two field goals and buying its offense time to find its groove as the Vermin defeated the Big Red Sunday to advance to the second round of the men’s interhall playoffs.

Dillon started the second half with the ball and a 6-0 lead, but the Carroll defense came out fired up and forced a three-and-out. The Vermin took over and handed off to Johnson three consecutive times.

On a disputed spot resulting in a Vermin first down, irate Dillon fans got into a war of words with an official and cost the Big Red a five-yard penalty. On the next play Wilmot completed a 63-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Mark Bennett, who caught the ball in stride between two defenders at the 20 and didn’t look back as he cruised into the end zone.

Carroll failed to convert on the extra point, and Dillon got the ball back with the score tied. The Big Red ran 12 straight running plays, employing everything from the option to the shovel pass, culminating in a 6-yard Duffy touchdown run. Dillon failed to convert the extra point, so Carroll got the ball on the 35 with an opportunity to take the lead.

After a 25-yard pass from Wilmot to receiver Paul Tassanari, Wilmot trotted in for a 5-yard score and the win. Johnson then proceeded to score the extra point and give his team the lead.

“Even though the touchdowns don’t reflect it, our offensive line and tailback won us this ballgame,” Johnson said. “We didn’t expect to win this game by running, but we did and we’re on to the next round.”

Carroll’s Bennett was ecstatic after the game.

“This was a real emotional win for our players, coaches, and fan community as we are the smallest dorm,” he said. “We are the team of destiny.”