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Interhall Insider: Keenan challenges dominant Siegfried

Chris Masoud | Friday, November 21, 2008

David meets Goliath this Sunday as Keenan challenges Siegfried for the Interhall Championship in legendary Notre Dame Stadium.

No. 7 seed Keenan has faced an uphill battle in the postseason but has emerged with convincing wins in each contest. Likewise, No. 1 seed Siegfried has lived up to the high expectations, rolling past the competition in pursuit of a perfect season.

After reclaiming the Chapel last week in a 14-8 victory over rival Stanford, Keenan captain Barton Dear is confident his team can build upon its success and carry the momentum into its third championship game in four years.

“Beating Stanford was a huge achievement for us,” Dear said. “Losing to our rival last year in the Stadium didn’t sit well with us. We came out strong and played a great game against a great team.”

The Knights have come a long way from the beginning of the season to earn a spot in the championship. After beginning the year 0-1-1, Dear said the team needed to rediscover its identity and make some serious changes to turn the season around.

“We realized that we had some players out of position,” Dear said, “so we switched our quarterback to tight end and started a freshman in his place. The offensive line also worked some stuff out, and it translated into positive results on the field.”

Thrust into the offense as quarterback, freshman Terry Mahoney has thrived in a familiar role, leading the Knights to three victories.

“I’ve had experience in the quarterback position before,” Mahoney said. “I was ready since the beginning of the season for a chance to play. I just had to wait for my opportunity. Thankfully I got it, and I’ve done my best for the team.”

Led by Mahoney, the balanced Keenan offense hopes to continue moving the ball against a merciless Siegfried defense. Mahoney will try to establish a connection with senior wide receiver Jim Zenker, something he’s been able to accomplish all season.

“Any time I throw Jim the ball I know he’s going to come down with it and make a play,” Mahoney said. “The chemistry is there, we just need to execute.”

Siegfried, however, has been effective in disrupting opposing offenses and preventing them from getting into a rhythm. Led by middle linebacker Dex Cure, the Ramblers forced three turnovers en route to a 14-6 victory over Morrissey in the semifinals last week.

“We just keep things simple on both sides of the ball,” Siegfried captain Kevin Kelly said. “As a team we’re just going to keep doing what we’ve done all year: force turnovers and give our offense a chance to score.”

If the Ramblers maintain the same level of play they displayed in the regular season, a championship is well within their reach, as the Ramblers are undefeated and untied through six games. Siegfried’s success has even brought back memories to many of the legendary Dillon teams of the late 50’s that dominated the interhall circuit.

“I appreciate the responses, but we’ve still got one more game to go,” Kelly said. “We can’t lose focus and underestimate a good opponent. It’s all about getting the job done in the Stadium.”

Kelly and the Siegfried seniors remember the last time they were on the Stadium field when USC ended a premature Irish celebration in 2005. They expect a much more enjoyable experience when they step on the field this Sunday.

“I can’t wait for it, and I know my teammates are just as excited,” Kelly said. “This will probably be our last time on the field, and we want to remember it with a victory.”

The seniors from both teams agree that playing in the championship game will be the most meaningful four quarters in their careers.

“If we win, it’ll be a great ending to a hard-fought story over the last four years,” Kelly said.

But for Keenan senior Alex Gonzalez, Sunday’s game will be a bitter-sweet experience. Gonzalez, who has carried the Knight offense on the ground with his powerful running game, will be inactive with a broken thumb. This will be the third time in his interhall career he will be inactive for the championship game with an injury.

“It’s a terrible feeling, but I just want to be able to motivate my team on the sidelines,” Gonzalez said. “With the best quarterback and receiver combo in the league, my teammates are more than capable of stepping up. The seniors and I have been a big part of Siegfried football for four years. We want it bad.”