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irish insider

Stanford aims to cement status as team to beat

| Friday, November 18, 2016

From day one of the 2016 interhall football season, Stanford senior captain Kevin Kohler and his team had the confidence that they could go all the way.

“Our mindset coming into the season was making it into the stadium and winning the championship,” Kohler said. “We were pretty unsatisfied with two consecutive semifinal losses. We were pretty dead-set on getting back to this position.”

The No. 3 Griffins (5-1) suffered each of those semifinal losses in 2014 and 2015 to Morrissey, the same squad that accounted for their only loss in 2016, a 24-0 drubbing last month. Kohler believes that those past losses have further motivated his team, and this year’s one blowout loss provided a much-needed wake-up call.

“[Our loss to Morrissey] was a nice kick in the pants that we needed,” Kohler said. “I feel like we came out flat against Morrissey. They had already been eliminated from the playoffs and had beaten us last year in the playoffs, so that made it feel like a rivalry game. … We didn’t put too much weight into [the loss] — we fixed some things, and it was a good learning tool.”

Despite the Griffins’ uncertain quarterback situation at the beginning of the year, sophomore Chase Jennings has stepped up and performed brilliantly, Kohler said, having infused natural talent with a winning mindset, which has carried the team throughout the season. Kohler praised him as one of the reasons for the team’s consistent success on the field this year.

“Last year, Chase started as a freshman at wide receiver and ended up displacing our starting quarterback on offense,” Kohler said. “He carried the momentum into this year. We joked before our last game that we came into the year without a quarterback. Chase took a little offense to that. He’s very competitive, and I think that shows on the field and in the huddle, and that’s been very important to our success this year.”

However, Kohler said he believes his team’s strengths on offense are based on more than just the quarterback position. He applauded his entire offense’s cohesiveness and success this season.

“Our biggest strengths are … our quarterback Chase, [freshman] running back Brandon Garcia and [junior] wide receiver Peter Ryan,” Kohler said. “I feel like they give us a nice competitive edge on offense. Brandon and Peter are new this year, so that has given us a jolt on offense that has brought it to a new level.”

On defense, Kohler said he has been particularly impressed by the performance of a few key players up front.

“I would say that on the defensive side of the ball, it starts with [junior] Matt O’Brien and [senior] Pat McMahon, the two guys in the middle,” Kohler said. “They set the tone on defense, constantly getting guys organized, getting guys lined up, calling blitzes. They are catalysts.”

Despite their success so far, Kohler and the Griffins are taking nothing for granted and remain hungry for another victory to fulfill their championship goal from the beginning of the season.

“[After beating No. 2 Keenan], we were pretty pumped to be able to play in the stadium, but at the same time, I felt like we hadn’t accomplished anything just yet,” Kohler said. “Getting to the stadium is a cool accomplishment, a cool experience, but we are here to win a championship. We’re still looking forward to [Sunday].”

The Griffins are preparing for Sunday’s game against No. 5 Duncan (4-1) with the same mindset that they have held throughout the rest of the season. However, Kohler said he thinks both teams are in a unique situation having already played each other earlier in the year in a game that ended with a 15-12 Stanford victory.

“It helps that we’ve seen what they do on offense and defense,” Kohler said. “That was the first game of the year — both teams have made a lot of changes through the course of the season. I feel like it gives us some confidence going into the game knowing that we beat them earlier in the season, but at the same time we don’t want to rest on our laurels too much. We still have to go out there and play the game. What happened in late September … doesn’t really mean much. It’s a new game [between] two good teams. We’re looking forward to it.”

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