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Interhall Insider: Mob, Manor set for championship showdown

John Tierney | Friday, November 17, 2006

Morrissey and O’Neill will put the pride of their dorms and their one-loss seasons on the line Sunday in the Men’s Interhall championship game at Notre Dame Stadium Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

Both teams advanced to the Championship game with a relatively easy trip through the postseason. O’Neill started off at No. 5, but easily knocked off No. 4 Carroll 21-8 in the opening round. O’Neill then advanced to the finals by virtue of a 12-0 shutout victory over Stanford on November 5. The Mob was led by quarterback Chris Stroh, who threw for 147 yards and completed 12 of his 16 passes. Running back Braden Turner ran for 34 yards on 10 carries with a touchdown, while fullback Mike Mattingly rushed for 47 yards on 10 carries.

Both the running backs and the quarterback credited the offensive line for their performances, as the line opened up rushing holes and gave Stroh time to find open receivers.

Morrissey’s opening round game against Zahm was much closer than O’Neill’s, with a failed two point conversion by the Rabid Bats marking the difference in the 7-6 Manor win. But Morrissey turned its offense around with a 27-10 drubbing of Siegfried in a game that was closer than the score indicates according to Manor captain Steve Klein.

Manor quarterback Joe McBrayer threw for three touchdowns and ran for another, while completing 6-of-9 passes in the semifinal win. Morrissey held on to the win thanks to the power running game of Klein, Brian Pieh, and Nick Bencomo, who combined to run for 146 yards on 24 carries.

Like O’Neill’s, a large part of Morrissey’s victory was the ability of their offensive line to control the trenches.

“The offensive line needs a lot of recognition because of how dominant they have been this season,” Manor tailback Brian Pieh said. “The running game, and passing game for that matter, would not have nearly been as successful as they have been if not for the guys up front.”

For Morrissey, the championship game will be about relishing the opportunity to finally play in the stadium. After coming up short in the semifinals in two of the past four seasons, the Manorites were finally able to advance to the championship.

“It feels awesome to be able to play in the stadium. I don’t know if it will completely sink in until we actually set foot on the field,” Klein said.

While emotions are always important in football, more relevant to the actual outcome of the game will be the play of the teams on the field. In a game that O’Neill captain Pat Conley predicts will be “reasonably low-scoring,” he believes that the key to the Mob’s success will be dominating in the trenches and controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.

“I think the linemen will make some important blocks that will spring our running backs for a big gain,” he said.

Conley is confident in the ability of his team to play at championship level not only on offense, but on defense as well. One main reason for the offensive production the Mob had throughout the postseason was its defense’s ability to win the field position battle.

“Our defense has been strong all year and I expect the same on Sunday,” Conley said. “Our offense has been able to move the ball very well against all defenses and should continue to be able to on Sunday. A lot of players on both sides are going to make plays.”

The Manorites, meanwhile, need to play with focus and determination – something that was important to their play throughout the year.

“We have to come out focused and play our best came of the year. We need to avoid hurting ourselves with penalties and to execute like we’ve been doing in the playoffs,” Klein said.

The teams enjoyed having a two-week layoff to heal injuries and allow for extra practice time. “The two-week layoff has been great. The team is rested and ready for Sunday,” Conley said.

But after the week off, both teams are ready to get back to playing games that count.

“The anticipation of playing in the stadium is so great that it can be hard to stay focused in practice,” Klein said.