Duncan and Stanford set to meet in interhall finals
No. 5 Duncan def. No. 1 St. Edward’s, 29-0
By Brennan Buhr
Duncan resoundingly defeated top seed St. Edward’s 29-0 Sunday, advancing the first-time semifinalists into the interhall football championship in Notre Dame Stadium.
The No. 5 Highlanders (4-1) were led offensively by junior quarterback and fill-in captain Matthew Kase, who accounted for three total touchdowns, two on the ground and one through the air. On defense, junior safety Declan Zidar, who has previously led Morrissey to two interhall titles in 2014 and 2015, secured two key momentum-swinging interceptions in the game.
The Highlanders began the first quarter with a long drive capped off by a short touchdown run. The extra point put them up 7-0.
The No. 1 Gentlemen (4-1) played competitively in the first quarter and began the second quarter on a high note with a long drive that brought their offense into the red zone for the first time in the game. However, Zidar grabbed a momentum-killing interception in his own end zone to extinguish the threat. Zidar described the interception as a major turning point.
“We were just relieved,” Zidar said. “They were driving on us and we were up 7-0, and when we got the interception we turned the game around from there.”
Soon after, Zidar and the Highlanders would convert the key turnover into another score, this time on a short touchdown run by Kase that pushed the margin to 14-0.
Late in the second quarter, the Highlanders forced a Gentlemen punt and quickly marched down the field, adding another touchdown on a long pass from Kase to his Zidar as time expired in the first half.
“We had a quick two-minute drill, and I give credit to Matt Kase on that one,” Zidar said. “He threw a perfect ball in the back of the end zone and we went up 21-0.”
Any hope that the Gentlemen had of mounting a comeback was greatly diminished on the very first play of the third quarter, when Zidar picked off another pass and returned it deep into Gentlemen territory. The Highlanders flipped that turnover into a touchdown once again on another short run by Kase, which coupled with a two-point conversion pass, solidified the Highlanders’ position in the lead for good.
As the final seconds ticked down in the fourth quarter, the Duncan fans could be heard cheering wildly and banging a drum in celebration of the hall’s first-ever semifinal victory in its first-ever playoff berth and the opportunity to continue its momentum in the championship game at Notre Dame Stadium.
“I’ve been wanting to play in the stadium since I was really young,” Kase said. “I think everyone else would agree with me that that was our goal from the very beginning. This is really exciting for our seniors especially — we are playing for them.”
For the Gentlemen, it was a disappointing result, but senior captain Phineas Andrews said that this season was a successful one nonetheless.
“Just in general, it’s important to have fun,” Andrews said. “We are a small dorm with a talent deficiency, so it’s tough for us every year. We did a great job in the regular season and the first round of the playoffs, and we had a lot of fun today.
“It’s just a fun experience for those of us who played football in high school to play a few more years with pads on,” Andrews said.
The Highlanders will take on Stanford next week, and Kase said that the previous game between the two teams, a 16-12 Stanford victory, will help the Highlanders better prepare for what Stanford brings to the table.
“We are very familiar with them and they are very familiar with us,” Kase said. “That was a really close game, they scored with 30 seconds left to take the lead over us, so we really want to avenge that loss. I think it should be a really exciting game next weekend.”
The Highlanders will face off against the No. 3 Griffins (5-1) on Sunday at 1 p.m. in Notre Dame Stadium.
No. 3 Stanford def. No. 2 Keenan, 14-12
By Meagan Bens
After an intense game between two of the biggest rivals in the league, Stanford claimed “The Battle for the Chapel” with its 14-12 victory over No. 2 Keenan.
Although No. 3 Stanford (5-1) left the field with a win and now have the right to refer to their chapel as the “Stanford-Keenan” chapel for the rest of the year, Griffins senior captain Kevin Kohler said No. 2 Keenan (4-1) put up a hard fight.
“Keenan’s a tough team; they have been the definition of excellence in interhall football for my four years here,” Kohler said. “They have been so solid, so sharp and so well-groomed. I’m happy we were able to go toe to toe with them today and take them down. I have a lot of respect for them because they are a great team. Honestly it’s just a shame that that game couldn’t have happened in the stadium, that was a championship matchup.”
Keenan senior captain Michael Koller said the Knights realized at halftime that they had underestimated the Griffins’ offense and they had to make adjustments to match Stanford’s rigid defense.
“I think we realized their quarterback was better than we thought and they had some talented receivers that we did not really account for as much,” Koller said. “We were missing a few of our starters because they went to the Shamrock Series for band, but that’s not an excuse. We were in the game and it was 7-6 Stanford at half. Their offense was just explosive and we came out flat. Defensively they put a lot of pressure on us and we had to make some changes to give our quarterback some more time. Their fast linebackers like to hit and that gave them an edge.”
Having a one point lead at halftime, Kohler said his team took time to settle their nerves and refocus.
“We were happy to get that touchdown back at the end of the half and we were happy to get that PAT to take a little bit of the lead going into halftime,” Kohler said. “During halftime, we honestly tried to stay loose as much as possible. We knew it was a big game, a big rival and we just tried to treat it like any other game and not let the pressure build up. There was a huge crowd and we tried to stay insulated from that and not get too high or too low.”
Shortly after halftime, Stanford secured another touchdown and extra point, leading 14-6. As the last few minutes of the game were approaching, the Knights had the opportunity to make a comeback, but were shut down by the Griffins’ defense. The Griffins gave up a touchdown, but prevented Keenan from converting the two-point conversion to keep the final score 14-12.
“One of the key moments of the second half was when Matt Wolfe, a senior, chased down a Keenan player at the end of the game and tackled him on the six yard-line, avoiding letting up a back-breaking touchdown,” Kohler said. “It gave us a chance to go down and put in our goal line defense. After their touchdown, we were able to hold them off on the two point conversion, which was huge and I am looking forward to playing … Duncan in the stadium next week.”
To end the interhall football season, Stanford will battle No. 5 Duncan (4-1) at 4 p.m. Sunday in Notre Dame Stadium for the championship title.