No. 1 St. Edward’s v. No. 5 Duncan
By Brennan Buhr
As St. Edward’s and Duncan enter the semifinals, it is the last chance for the two teams to prove themselves worthy of playing in Notre Dame Stadium.
For the No. 1 Gentlemen (4-0), an undefeated season was in jeopardy last week against No. 8 Carroll, but they were able to ultimately pull out a razor-thin 7-6 victory. Even as the top seed in the tournament, the Gentlemen are not taking things for granted against a No. 5 Duncan team (3-1) coming off its first-ever playoff victory. Senior St. Edward’s captain Phineas Andrews trusts his team’s ability to execute on Sunday and he praised the Gentlemen’s overall spirit and mindset coming into the game.
“The team is very excited to compete in another playoff game and hopefully earn the opportunity to play in the stadium next week,” Andrews said. “It’s always natural to have a little anxiety, but I would say the team is motivated more than anything else.”
Andrews also said that Duncan poses several unique challenges on offense that St. Edward’s must plan for.
“They’ve got several guys who can make plays with the ball in their hands,” he said. “We need to limit big plays and not give up any easy points when on defense.”
On the other side of the ball, Andrews said that putting in a four-quarter effort and sticking to the fundamentals will give the Gentlemen a good chance to prevail on Sunday.
“On offense, we are just working on executing our blocking schemes on run plays and improving our timing in the pass game,” Andrews said. “Overall, Duncan has a pretty physical team so we are just looking forward to a tough, fun football game on Sunday.”
For the Highlanders, last week’s 27-14 triumph over Alumni was not only the first playoff victory in dorm history, but was also a significant motivating factor that has propelled the team to a high level of confidence in Sunday’s game. Junior Matthew Kase, filling in as team captain for the Highlanders in place of junior captain Thomas Staffieri, who is out with a concussion, demonstrated the upbeat attitude that his entire team has adopted.
“We are very motivated coming into this semifinal game,” Kase said. “This is Duncan’s first-ever playoff appearance. It has been really fun for all of us to change the perception of Duncan Hall football. We would love to keep it rolling this weekend.”
In preparation for Sunday’s game, Kase said the Highlanders need to hone in on stopping the Gentlemen’s talented and multi-faceted offense.
“St. Edward’s runs almost everything they do through their quarterback,” Kase said. “We are focusing on shutting him down and hopefully everything else can fall into place.”
The game kicks off at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at LaBar Practice Complex.
No. 2 Kennan v. No. 3 Stanford
By Meagan Bens
The “Battle for the Chapel” between rivals Keenan and Stanford will kick off Sunday, as Stanford looks to maintain the name of the Chapel.
For as long as No. 2 Keenan (4-0) senior captain Michael Koller can remember, the rivalry between the two dorms has been intense and whoever ends up being victorious has bragging rights for the remainder of the year.
“Every year — except this year — we play Stanford in the regular season once, and since we share a chapel, whoever wins the game gets the first name of the chapel,” Koller said. “So if Keenan won the game, you can call it the Keenan-Stanford Chapel; if Stanford won the game, it’d be the Stanford-Keenan Chapel. … It’s a fun but also huge rivalry since we live right next to each other. My rector said he tried to talk to RecSports to see if we could get Stanford back in our division this year, but luckily we have the chance to play them in the playoffs this year. Stanford started getting a lot better during my four years here, so they are always one of the hardest teams we have to play, and both teams play a little harder due to the rivalry.”
Acknowledging the additional pressure of being in the semifinals along with facing their biggest rival, No. 3 Stanford (4-1) senior captain Kevin Kohler discussed that the game will be close and low-scoring.
“Looking at Keenan’s past scores and their shutouts, their defense is strong and they score enough to win, especially after watching them play Siegfried last week,” Kohler said. “It’s going to be a low-scoring game and points will be at a premium. We have to not have turnovers in the red zone, which has hurt us in previous games.”
Since the Knights and Griffins are not in the same division this season, Koller said he does not know as much about the specifics of Stanford’s performance this year, but he did note that the level of physicality is expected to be elevated for this game.
“I honestly don’t know much about the team since they aren’t in our division now, but I know they are always really hard hitters,” Koller said. “I know the level of intensity will be increased this game, and I know from the past that they’ve had a lot of big, strong linebackers and linemen which makes it more physical. We don’t really prep too much for the specific team we are playing ‘cause we don’t want to change the way we play. Usually we stick with the same strategies and our players are knowledgeable enough to make adjustments in the game as it goes. We do our best and if it’s good enough to win, that’s awesome.”
Kohler also said that Stanford will not prepare any differently for the upcoming game.
“We are going to continue to do what we have done previously this season, for the most part,” Kohler said. “We will have practice and probably meet again before the game. Our primary focus before the game is on longer walk throughs. Guys are not always available during the week, so we meet two hours before the game to run through offense, defense and special teams. We are going to keep rolling, have chemistry between our receivers and quarterback and make sure our players are in sync. The defense needs to stick to their runs, and we need control our nerves and show up with intensity.”
The “Battle for the Chapel” will kick off at 1 p.m. Sunday at LaBar Practice Complex.