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Men’s Interhall Football: Stanford and Keenan to battle for the Chapel

JOSEPH | Thursday, September 16, 2010

Stanford and Keenan are something of an anomaly on the Notre Dame campus. They share the same building. They share the same chapel. They share the same doorway, same front lounge and same basic architecture. On Sunday, however, the two dorms will share the same football field as the annual Battle for the Chapel takes place in the first weekend of the season.

Stanford’s undefeated regular season ended abruptly in the first round of the playoffs following a loss to St. Edward’s, but with 17 returning players, the sky is the limit. Led by senior quarterback Tony Rizzo, the Griffins praise aggressiveness on both sides of the ball.

“Game plan is to come out and play a hard four quarters,” Rizzo said. “Attack on offense, we’re not going to sit back and let the other team score. Defense last year we gave up three touchdowns all season, so we are going to try to keep up our tradition of hard defense.”

Lining up against the Griffins on Sunday will be the Knights of Keenan Hall, who also hope their season will culminate in the Stadium. Following a disappointing 1-2-1 season last year, the Knights are back with a simplified offense and a solid offensive line. Senior running back, defensive back and co-captain Jamie Koepsel said his team will have to work hard to get to where they want to be this season, but he remains confident.

“We’ve got the talent to do it, we have the personnel to do it,” Koepsel said. “All we have to do is execute on Sundays.”

On the defensive side of the ball, the Knights will look to their other captain, senior middle linebacker Bart Dear, to help them slow down Rizzo and the Griffins’ attack. Rizzo, however, is familiar with what Dear brings to the field.

“I played against him in high school,” Rizzo said. “So we kind of jaw back and forth. In years past it always comes down to a touchdown or less between the two of us.”

If Rizzo’s analysis rings true, spectators are in for an entertaining game. The game will be played at 3 p.m. Sunday.

Duncan vs Siegfried

Last season could not have gone more differently for the teams of Siegfried and Duncan. Siegfried ended the year on top, winning their second straight championship in Notre Dame Stadium, while Duncan finished winless at 0-3-1. This year, they open the season against each other, in the first matchup in Blue League play.

Duncan hopes to use the ground game to spark an improvement from last season.

“The goal in this league is always to be mostly run, because the pass is risky,” Duncan junior captain and offensive and defensive lineman Paul Scheel said. “We intend to control the clock and possession, but we’ll vary depending on the game situation.”

The Highlanders will rely heavily on their lone senior, Andrew Wiand, who can play a wide range of positions including quarterback, running back and slot receiver. Another key contributor will be junior Brett Leahy, a tight end on offense and defensive lineman and linebacker on defense, along with junior safety and slot receiver Adam Zaabel.

Siegfried will try to pick up where they left off last season with a mixed attack that leans towards the run.

“We do try to balance it out,” Siegfried senior captain and offensive tackle Michael McDonnell said. “But our biggest strength is our running game.”

The Ramblers will look towards junior fullback and linebacker John Aversa and senior quarterback Matt Meinert for big production as they look to defend their title.

While there are many new faces on Siegfried this year, McDonnell understands expectations are still high and the goal is to three-peat.

“We realize we have a target on our backs,” McDonnell said, “But we’ll try to move through it.”

The young Duncan team will look to pull off an upset of the champs at Riehle Fields Sunday at 1 p.m.


Morrissey vs. Knott

The opening weekend of the men’s interhall schedule will be highlighted by a greatly anticipated Blue League matchup between Morrissey and Knott, as both teams look to start off with a win after reaching the playoffs last season.

Adding to a number of established veterans that led the team to a strong regular season showing in 2009, Morrissey will debut a number of new faces on this year’s squad. Included in the new faces will be Nick Conrad, a freshman and the new starting quarterback for The Manor.

Looking to stop the upstart Morrissey team will be an extremely confident Juggerknott squad that also went to last year’s playoffs.  They are led this season by team captain and senior fullback Dan Shaffer. Shaffer is building his team’s identity around physical play and hoping that toughness will take them to the top.

“We plan to be the hardest hitting team on Sunday,” Shaffer said.

With confidence in their veteran playmakers, Shaffer said his team would look to build on last year’s positive momentum.

“This year we’d like to take it even further,” Shaffer said. “Our goal is to make it to the championship and build on last year’s playoff win.”

Morrissey also has lofty postseason hopes.  

Both teams are eagerly awaiting the season and a chance to hit some opponents, beginning Sunday at 2 p.m. at Riehle Fields.


Zahm vs. Fisher

Improvement will be the focus on Sunday, as two teams coming off disappointing seasons will look to push for a playoff run as Fisher meets Zahm.

Zahm ended the 2009 season winless and struggled to put points on the board all season, while Fisher recorded two wins and two losses on the season, which put them on the outside looking in when playoff time rolled around.

Even more disappointing than the poor records, however, was the lack of intensity and focus demonstrated by both teams.

“We didn’t show up mentally,” Fisher senior captain Michael McMahon said. “So we’re looking to improve on that.”  

Zahm Hall senior captain Mark Pomerenke expressed similar sentiments, saying that the Zahmbies are looking to increase enthusiasm while also unveiling a more dynamic offensive system.

“I know a lot of people wouldn’t give us a chance to win,” Pomerenke said of last year’s campaign. “But it’s a volatile game.”

Although the Zahmbies are a relatively young team with inexperience at many key positions, they have set high goals for themselves, aiming to win their four scheduled games and earn a playoff berth.

McMahon is also optimistic, saying that the Green Wave plans to win games and improve from last year under the offensive tutelage and tactical genius of senior coach Eric Prister.

“We’re excited,” McMahon said. “We want to get to the stadium.”

The clash of improving squads will begin Sunday at 1 p.m. at Riehle Fields.

St. Ed’s vs. Sorin

After falling just short of completing an improbable championship run last season, the Gentlemen from St. Edward’s will begin their quest to return to Notre Dame Stadium against a strong squad from Sorin that also made the playoffs in 2009.

St. Edward’s squeaked into the playoffs last year as the No. 8 seed, but then made a run all the way to the championship game before losing to Siegfried, 41-12. The Gentlemen’s junior captain, running back Jay Mathes, has made the goal for this year’s squad clear: get back to the Stadium.

“Obviously we’d like to get back,” Mathes said. “We have a pretty deep team. We don’t really have one guy who’s going to excel over anybody else.”

That depth will be a strong area for the Gentlemen, a team that lost only four seniors from last year’s runner-up squad. Mathes also plans to run an aggressive, between the tackles offense.

“This year we’re really trying to establish the run game,” Mathes said. “We feel like we have a lot of speed on offense.”

Sorin also enters this season with lofty goals after a dominating campaign last year. The Otters’ defense did not allow a point in an undefeated regular season that earned them a No. 2 seed in the playoffs. A first round upset by eventual champion Siegfried ended their hopes of advancing, but junior wide receiver Bobby Sullivan has hope for a better result this year.

“We expect nothing less than the best from our guys,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan has especially high hopes for his offense, which will feature an option attack.

“If you liked what you saw out of Denard Robinson on Saturday,” Sullivan said, “Come see us run the option.”

Kickoff will be at 2 p.m. Sunday at Riehle Fields.


O’Neill vs. Keough

For O’Neill and Keough, rivalry week arrives early in a week one matchup as both teams look to improve on disappointing campaigns last season.

“It’s strange that this rivalry game falls in the first week of the season,” Keough senior captain Kevin Laughlin said. “But once the game starts, we’re going to treat it like any other and try to establish an identity.”

Both teams look to change their identities quickly after disappointing seasons in 2009. For Keough to improve upon its 1-2-1 mark in 2009, youth will be the name of the game. Freshman Aaron Grinsteinner and Mike Fischer will start at quarterback and running back respectively. Laughlin believes that these players fit his offensive system, which will take teams by surprise with its variety of plays and balanced attack.

On the defensive end, Laughlin captains an athletic, fast squad that could counter spread-like offensive systems traditionally run by division rivals. Senior cornerback Brian Koepsel and sophomore defensive end Rob Toole are both expected to be impact players.

Meanwhile, the 2009 O’Neill squad finished 1-3, a poor record that senior captain Guy Schwartz attributed to some athletes studying abroad and others simply not participating in interhall football. However, this year the Mob held tryouts due to a larger initial roster and are optimistic about their added depth.

Schwartz expects senior running back Tom Friel to provide leadership for an offense whose quarterback has not yet been determined. Also, senior Bob Powers, who played quarterback his freshmen and sophomore years, will serve as the Mob’s offensive coordinator, providing experienced play calling.


he West Quad battle of up-and-coming teams will be held at Riehle Fields Sunday at 3 p.m.