No. 3 Stanford def. No. 5 Duncan, 7-6
By Brennan Buhr
Stanford defeated Duncan 7-6 in a frigid affair at Notre Dame Stadium to win the 2016 men’s interhall football championship.
The No. 3 Griffins (6-1) were led by sophomore quarterback Chase Jennings, who threw for Stanford’s only touchdown of the game, a 13-yard strike to sophomore receiver Peter Ryan in the second quarter.
The No. 5 Highlanders (4-2) were carried offensively by sophomore running back Micah Rensch and junior quarterback Matthew Kase, who completed a touchdown pass of his own late in the fourth quarter.
The first quarter started out slowly for both teams, as the offenses had difficulty playing in the windy conditions and 35-degree temperatures. Both teams traded turnovers in their first possessions before the Griffins began the second quarter with a long punt that was downed at the 1-yard line by sophomore receiver Alex Barone, flipping field position in their favor for the rest of the first half.
The Griffins ultimately capitalized on that good field position after a Highlanders punt, moving into the red zone on a combination of quick completions from Jennings and solid carries by freshman running back Brandon Garcia. Jennings’ touchdown pass to Ryan, along with a key extra point, put the Griffins up 7-0 going into halftime.
After the game, Griffins senior captain Kevin Kohler pointed out that this first score was the turning point of the game that gave his team a key edge in momentum.
“It was a great pitch and catch between [Jennings] and [Ryan],” Kohler said. “It’s always important to score first and that touchdown really helped us build confidence for the rest of the game.”
The Griffins opened the second half on a high note, with junior Sean O’Brien picking off a pass from Kase on the Highlanders’ first possession of the half. Led by Jennings, the Griffins drove down the field and into the red zone, but were forced back by offensive penalties, eventually punting to end the scoring threat.
Late in the fourth quarter, the Highlanders caught a break when the Griffins could not convert on a fourth-and-1 attempt just outside the red zone, falling inches short of the first-down line. A few plays later, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Griffins resulted in a 15-yard swing in momentum in favor of the Highlanders.
Spurred on by a few key runs from Rensch, the Highlanders took the ball down the field and ultimately converted on a long touchdown throw from Kase. However, a bad hold caused the extra point attempt to fall short and to the right, keeping the Griffins in the lead at 7-6 with only a few minutes remaining in the game. Garcia sealed the victory with a few key first-down runs that allowed the Griffins to run out the clock, as the Highlanders did not get the chance to run another play on offense.
As the clock ran out, the Griffin faithful rushed the field, cheering wildly in celebration of a championship that, as Kohler put it, was years in the making.
“When I was a freshman, we were 0-4, and we didn’t score a single point all season,” Kohler said. “This championship means a lot for our seniors especially, because we have been through so much together.”
For the Highlanders and their fans, the outcome of the game was heartbreaking, but an emotional junior captain Thomas Staffieri still believed that the season as a whole was a resounding success.
“We really improved throughout the year,” Staffieri said. “Great things are in store for Duncan football in the future. When we were first here as freshmen, Duncan football wasn’t much of anything. The seniors here have really worked hard to put Duncan on the map as a football program.”
Kohler had trouble finding words to describe his emotions after winning such an intense game, but he did not forget to give credit to his teammates and the Stanford fans.
“This championship has definitely been a team effort,” Kohler said. “As I was saying to the guys after the game, this was made possible by everyone from the seniors to all the guys who came out from our dorm to support us this year. We couldn’t have done it without any of them.”
No. 1 Welsh Family def. No. 3 Ryan, 20-14
By Kyle Barry
On a cold, grey November afternoon, No. 1 Welsh Family came from behind to defeat Ryan 20-14 in the championship game in Notre Dame Stadium.
The No. 1 Whirlwinds (8-1) and No. 3 Wildcats (7-2) were neck-and-neck as there was barely any breathing room for either team throughout the game.
The Wildcats took the lead early in the fourth quarter to put them up 14-12.
With a championship on the line, Whirlwinds senior captain Ariel Navotas caught a short pass and took it 44 yards to the house to take a 20-14 lead with two minutes left in the game.
Trying to answer back, the Wildcats turned the ball over on downs and the Whirlwinds would hold on to win the championship.
The Whirlwinds have now won either the “A” or “B” championship in four straight years thanks in part to Navotas, who poses a threat at receiver. She feels her team’s victory was a well-deserved one.
“We had an amazing game,” Navotas said. “We knew that we wanted it, deserved it and did whatever we needed to do and we did it.”
Navotas believed that defense has carried the Whirlwinds the entire season which resulted in their success in the last few season.
“This season has been an unabashed joy,” Navotas said. “It’s bittersweet especially for the seniors who’d played in Notre Dame Stadium all four years and it means so much to them. We ended up crying in the end because we’re a family; we’re always there for each other.”
Although the Wildcats came up short, senior captain Shawn Hall is proud of how her team fought.
“The outcome of the game wasn’t what we were looking for,” Hall said. “But I’m so proud of the way our team has come out and played the entire season.”