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Interhall Finals: Played like champions

Joe Meixell | Monday, November 20, 2006

Although O’Neill gained more yards of total offense than Morrissey did on Sunday, the Manorites defeated the Mob 14-7 to capture their first men’s Interhall championship since 1993.

Morrissey was led by the three-pronged rushing attack of Nick Bencomo, Brian Pieh and team captain Steve Klein, who combined to run for 74 yards on 13 carries. Also critical to Morrissey’s success was quarterback Joe McBrayer, who completed seven of 10 passes for 120 yards.

The Manorites made their biggest plays in the second half. Morrissey senior Chris Calderone intercepted a pass from O’Neill quarterback Chris Stroh on the Mob’s opening drive to give Morrissey the ball at its own 21-yard line. Led by the rushing of Bencomo and Pieh, the Manorites pounded the ball down to the O’Neill 15-yard line.

As time expired in the third quarter, Morrissey took a 14-7 lead on a McBrayer touchdown pass to sophomore Carl Anderson, who was wide open on the right side of the end zone when cornerback Alex Klupchak fell down in coverage at the 1-yard line.

Both teams started the game off slowly on offense, and the game was scoreless well into the second quarter. The Mob broke through first with an eight-play, 65-yard scoring drive that ran close to eight minutes off the clock in the second quarter.

O’Neill’s offense was led by fullback Mike Mattingly and running back Braden Turner, who combined to gain all 65 yards on the drive. With two-and-a-half minutes remaining in the first half, Mattingly put the Mob up 7-0 by sprinting into the right corner of the end zone for a 17-yard touchdown run.

But O’Neill was not able to bask in its glory for long. The Manorites were determined to score before halftime, and McBrayer came out of the gate firing. He completed his first two passes of the drive to receiver Daniel Reimer for a combined 49 yards and moved the Manorites to the Mob 16-yard line. On the drive’s third play, McBrayer lobbed a pass to Klein in the left corner of the end zone that was caught for a touchdown to tie the score with 1:43 left on the clock.

“We were surprised by their offense coming out and scoring right after we took the lead. Our offense had controlled the ball and our defense had been getting stops, so we didn’t expect it,” O’Neill captain Pat Conley said of the Morrissey touchdown.

Conley insisted the game-tying touchdown was not a letdown for his team, but the ensuing Mob possession turned the game in Morrissey’s favor. After O’Neill marched down the field to the Manorite one-yard line, Mattingly was stopped at the line of scrimmage on a third-down run with four seconds left in the half. Although the Mob tried to get a final play off, they had no timeouts remaining and time expired with the score tied at 7.

“That stop at the end of the half was a huge momentum builder for us,” Klein said. “It really helped our confidence going into halftime because it showed us we could make big plays.”

O’Neill threatened again on its first possession after Morrissey took the lead. That Mob drive lasted 15 plays, leading O’Neill to the Manorite 7-yard line. But Manorite Phil Yuhas picked off Stroh’s pass into the endzone on fourth-down with 2:10 remaining.

While Morrissey gave the Mob the ball back with 20 seconds still left, Andersen batted down Stroh’s pass into the end zone as time expired, making the Manorites the champions.

“It’s an amazing feeling to finally win. I didn’t really realize how close we were until that clock ticked to zero,” Klein said. “But now, it’s all sinking in.”

Klein credited his team’s senior leadership with leading the squad to victory.

“We have a lot of seniors, and we’ve been so close the past two years,” he said. “Our seniors really pulled us through this game.

“It’s great to go out on top,” he said. “There’s no better ending than winning the championship game in Notre Dame Stadium. We won with great guys, with guys we’ve lived with for four years, with our friends. I’m happy right now.”