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Men’s Interhall: Zahm begins defense of title

Andrew Kovach, Kate Donlin, and John Tierney | Friday, September 15, 2006

The reigning Interhall champions begin their title defense Sunday against the Knott Juggerknotts at 3 p.m.

Zahm beat Keenan in the teams’ last regular-season game in 2005 in a game closer than their final records would indicate.

Keenan, which finished 0-5, lost a hard-fought battle to the undefeated soon-to-be champions, 8-0.

“It was probably our toughest game of the season,” Zahm captain Sean Wieland said.

For Keenan, the early-season rematch means the chance at revenge.

“We’re real excited about the game,” Keenan captain Matt Crosson said. “We felt like we played our best football against Zahm. Hopefully we’ll have a good shot to knock them off.”

To do that, the Knights will have to slow down Zahm’s explosive running backs and receivers. The Rabid Bats feature fullback Cameron Muhlenkamp and tailbacks Corey Brisee and Otheo Ossei-Anto.

Wieland, who returns for his third year as Zahm’s starting quarterback, said the offense should be strong and ready to go.

To counteract the returning Rabid Bat skill players, Crosson said Carroll has a comprehensive defensive strategy.

“We know they have great skill players and we know they have a lot of speed,” he said. “We’re going to try and keep everything in the middle of the field.

Part of that strategy will be Carroll’s 4-4 defensive alignment. With four linebackers – two on the outside to collapse on running plays – Carroll hopes to keep Zahm’s feared running game in check.

When asked if he considered growing the grass on Riehle Field extra long to neutralize Zahm’s speed, Crosson had a straightforward response.

“If we were in control of that, we would like to,” he said.

Sorin vs. Carroll

Sorin is confident heading into its game against Carroll Sunday.

Actually, make that very confident.

“I feel like we could skip a game and put our friends from Saint Mary’s out there and they’d still win,” Otters captain Pete Lavorini said. “We have a new quarterback, a new running back, new wide receivers and a new offensive line.”

Lavorini said Sorin’s “true excellence” didn’t reveal its full potential last year in the team’s second-round playoff loss to Keenan. Now, he said, that will change.

“It’s just a whole new mentality – that is to just beat the crap out of anyone possible,” Lavorini said. “We’re basically going to score as many points as possible in the short time we have.”

Meanwhile, Carroll is hoping for a balancing act Sunday.

Vermin captain Mike Versagli said the team will look to exploit Sorin early to implement an even attack the rest of the way.

“We’re going to balance the game, try to balance it out,” he said.

Versagli said the team’s experience offense would be able to handle the playbook well.

“I feel that we’re used to [the offense],” he said. “We’re not a team where a lot of our players are in for more than just one year. … [But] we’re just looking to see how we play in our first game.”

They will need to play well against a Sorin team that shut out a dangerous Fisher squad in the first round of the playoffs in 2005.

And Lavorini was confident that the 2006 version of the Otters is far superior to the team that showed up a year ago.

“I think this is the best team we’ve ever had,” he said. “Really, I don’t think there’s any way we’ll lose a game.”

Siegfried vs. St. Ed’s

Siegfried and St. Ed’s, two dorms with playoff aspirations, will kick off their respective 2006 Interhall Football campaigns at Riehle Field this Sunday at 3 p.m.

Led by junior captain Ge Wang, the Stedsmen will look to improve after a 0-4 season in 2005 while the Ramblers, 3-1 in the regular season last year, seek a return to the postseason.

Starting at fullback and middle linebacker for St. Eds, Wang said his team will be ready to go this time around.

“We have the talent this year, and anything short of [the playoffs] would be a disappointment,” he said.

Wang said the Stedsmen will run a balanced offensive attack, supplementing their passing game equally with their running game to move the ball downfield.

Just like St. Eds, Siegfried has set very high goals for themselves this season. Tri-captains junior Tom Martin and seniors Matt Wopperer and Pat Manning came close to their goal of a championship last year but ultimately fell short, losing to Morrissey Manor in the first round of the postseason.

“Our obvious goal is the stadium this year, to win the whole thing. We’re just going to take it one game at a time,” said Martin, who starts at offensive guard and defensive end.

Much like Wang, Martin said the Ramblers’ offense is balanced.

“We lost four starters from our offensive line last year but we have good freshmen and new sophomores, and we’re comfortable throwing and running,” he said.

But Martin knows that Sunday’s game will be a big one.

“We have lots of new players,” he said. “It’s real big to see how everyone works together and comes together this Sunday.”

Siegfried has extra motivation this season, however. If the Ramblers take home the championship, assistant rector Mike Hoefling has pledged to wear a dress and high heels to all of his classes for a full week following the championship game.

Keenan vs. Keough

The Keenan Knights will take on the Keough Kangaroos at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Riehle Fields.

The Knights are led by junior captain Matt Gibson, who said his team’s past several weeks of practice have been encouraging.

Adding to Gibson’s leadership is senior Alex Staffieri, the team’s starting running back. He will take the field Sunday with a strong offensive line, which is returning four players from last year’s team. Gibson said Keenan’s success will depend on a complete team effort in order to defeat the talented Keough team.

Kangaroos captain Steve Humphrey said he realizes this Sunday’s game will be a tough battle, but he is confident his team will be able to finish on top.

Despite losing sophomore running back Mike Anello to the Irish varsity team, Keough has several returning contributors, including Tom Chesnick, Chaz Arnold, Rob Hallman and Tom O’Donnell.

Keough’s defense is shaping up well, but Humphrey is a little less confident about the team’s offense because of practice schedule conflicts by several starters. Still, he’s excited to get his fourth season for the Kangaroos underway.

“This is the most talented team we’ve had,” he said.

Dillon vs. O’Neill

Hopes are high for both the Dillon and O’Neill football teams as they face off to start the new season Sunday at 3 p.m. on the Riehle Field. Both teams enter the new campaign after finishing with a 2-3 record and a first-round playoff loss last fall.

“This year’s, like every other year’s, goal is to win it all,” Angry Mob captain Pat Conley said.

Dillon sees itself as a defensively oriented team whose strength offensively lies in the running game. The offense will be led by running back Alex Duffy and wide receiver Chad Krause. Last season, Duffy, then a rookie to interhall football, developed into the team’s key player on offense. Justin Figueredo, the team’s co-captain alongside Duffy, said the running game will benefit from an offensive line that adds speed, but returns only one starter.

Defensively, Dillon will be anchored by five returning starters including senior cornerback Francis Leyhane, senior defensive tackle Tom “Schooly” Bradley, junior linebacker Paul Carlson, junior defensive end Dan Avants and sophomore safety Figueredo.

Dillon will start a relatively inexperienced lineup, with only nine total returning starters and just four on offense. Figueredo said the incoming freshmen replacing the lost upperclassmen are talented and eager to start playing.

Since narrowing its squad to the maximum 24 players from the 45 who originally tried out, Dillon has had five practices in full pads. The first week, the team concentrated mostly on physical conditioning and getting players into football shape. The following week, the practices’ focus switched to the mental aspect of the game and installing the new playbook on both offense and defense.

O’Neill will also come to this season-opening matchup with the desire to win a championship off of a 2-3 season. Conley described his team as one whose success will be dictated by all 24 players on the roster. The team has no star players, he said, and “won’t win unless everyone is on their game that day.”

O’Neill looks to be equally balanced on both sides of the ball this season and will rely on team speed on both offense and defense. The squad plans to be aggressive on offense, but is unsure if it will develop as a running-dominated or passing-dominated team.

Stanford vs. Alumni

A major showdown is set this Sunday at 2 p.m. between two of the teams in the Gold League of the men’s Interhall Football League.

Alumni hopes to take down Stanford after a disappointing loss last year. Both teams expected an all-out battle, and that’s what it came down to in the Griffins’ 14-6 victory over the Dawgs. Stanford came out strong right from the start with a 40-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the game, and despite a valiant fight late in the game, Alumni was unable to stop Stanford’s impressive offense.

This year, Alumni captain Richard Damey hopes the team’s practice and talented roster will pay off. The Alumni defense will have its hands full again this year with the Stanford team, who has always been a dominant offensive force.

Stanford captain senior Brandon McLeod will lead the Griffins. Both teams have their eyes set on the playoffs after a disappointing end to last season. Last year Alumni failed to make the playoffs despite an exciting, hard-fought win over rival Dillon in its final game.

The Dawgs finished their season with a final record of 1-2-1 and hope to build on that this year.

Stanford lost their final game of the year, an 8-6 nail-biter to Morrissey that ended their hopes of a playoff berth.