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Men’s Interhall: Top two seeds face off in battle of unbeatens

Samantha Zuba | Friday, November 16, 2012

It all comes down to Sunday.

After a trying regular season for both teams, No. 1 Sorin and No. 2 Keenan will take the field in Notre Dame Stadium and square off for the championship.

Keenan (5-0-1) has relied on its leadership to hold a rather young team together. The Knights struggled with injuries and absences all season but found the right pieces to pull together as a team and go undefeated. Underclassmen were forced to step up into contributing roles. Several players had to switch positions or play multiple roles.

Such positional rotation could have shaken team chemistry, but senior receiver and outside linebacker Alex Green credited senior quarterback and captain Andrew McDonough with keeping the Knights together.

“It’s important to have leadership with all those pieces moving around, and Andrew McDonough has come through,” Green said.

Green stressed Keenan’s intangibles and ability to play as a united squad and said the Knights will need these qualities in the championship.

“We’ve been successful because we have team chemistry, camaraderie and leadership,” Green said. “We don’t want any regrets; we’re going to leave it all on the field. We are going to have fun but execute what we have practiced all season.”

Senior offensive lineman and defensive end Tyler Gregory said Keenan remains focused on its one season-long goal.

“We wanted to win the championship,” Gregory said. “We had one goal. Now we’re one step away.”

The Knights will roll out a strong receiving corps that includes Green and fellow seniors Trevor Yerrick and Nate Carr. Sorin senior running back Ryan Robinson says the Otters (6-0) will be ready with their tried-and-true strategy.

“We know Keenan has a great passing attack,” Robinson said. “They have some great skill players at quarterback and receiver. We’re not really going to change anything. Our defense hasn’t given up too many touchdowns, so we’re going to take what we have done the last couple years.”

Sorin will be making its third consecutive championship game appearance. After defeating Dillon in 2010, the Otters lost to the Big Red in the finals last season, and, according to Robinson, they are glad to be back in Notre Dame Stadium.

“We’re really excited,” Robinson said. “We know Keenan is a good team. This is our third year in a row making it, and the seniors want to end our careers with a winning record in the Stadium. I think it’s going to be a good matchup.”

Like Keenan, the Otters fought through injuries, including the devastating loss of senior captain Colin King, but Robinson lauded Sorin’s ability to bounce back.

“We learned how to rally as a team,” Robinson said. “I’m happy about how our outfit has come together. We’re lucky we got a great freshman class. They contribute a lot to our team, and our defense has been really sound. Our running backs have had great years.”

Sorin’s featured running backs are Robinson and freshman John Pearl, but Robinson said the Otters have avoided falling into the trap of a one-dimensional offense by learning how to adapt to the absence of key players.

“We have a pretty great mix between running and passing,” Robinson said. “Last week, we didn’t have both of our running backs, and our receivers stepped up and played really well. It’s a solid mix.”

It all comes down to Sunday when Keenan and Sorin face off at 3:30 p.m. in Notre Dame Stadium.