Interhall squads prepare for quarterfinal play
Stanford v. Duncan
By Peter Baltes
This Sunday, No. 1 Stanford (3-0) prepares to face No. 9 Duncan (2-1) in the quarterfinals of the interhall football playoffs. Stanford is coming off of a bye while Duncan secured a 12-0 victory over No. 8 Fisher in the first week of elimination games.
This matchup carries major significance for the players of both teams. Not only does a loss mean the end of the season, but Stanford and Duncan last met in the 2016 championship. Stanford ultimately secured the win in that contest, but there is no guarantee that this year will yield the same result.
Even before this season kicked off, Stanford had very high expectations. The Griffins rolled to a 3-0 record in the regular season, securing both the first seed in the playoffs and the only bye week provided by the league’s 15-team playoff bracket. Stanford captain and senior Matt O’Brien attributes much of the Griffins’ success in recent seasons to the team’s strong sense of community.
“Our biggest strength is that over the course of the last few seasons we’ve really built a team culture where we understand that if we put the work in, we’ll be rewarded with success,” O’Brien said. “These guys understand that it’s a privilege to step on that field.”
O’Brien said he sees a very strong team overall but made special note of two major playmakers who are set to make a major impact this weekend.
Junior defensive end Calvin Stringer, he said, exhibits a strong “ability to fight off blocks and get after the quarterback.” O’Brien also praised junior quarterback Chase Jennings, saying he is “cool as a cucumber under pressure” and “makes good decisions with the football in his hands.”
O’Brien also made clear how he expects both this game and this season to go for the Griffins.
“I’m confident we’ll come out flying around on Sunday,” he said. “We have one goal, and that’s to win another championship in Notre Dame Stadium.”
Duncan is also seeking the chance to play in Notre Dame Stadium for the second consecutive year. The Highlanders only suffered one loss over the course of the regular season and made a strong statement in the playoffs’ opening round with a shutout win. When describing his team’s preparation for the quarterfinals, sophomore captain Kyle Tomshack expressed confidence in his team’s abilities and remained unfazed by the Griffins’ reputation.
“We’ve been gradually improving our performance with each game, and I expect that trend to continue,” Tomshack said. “Stanford is a great team, but I think that we can beat them if we play together and minimize mistakes.”
On offense, Tomshack cited senior quarterback Matt Kase and junior running back Micah Rensch as players likely to positively impact Duncan’s chances. He said the same of senior defensive back Declan Zidar and junior linebacker Conner Futa on defense.
“We’re hoping [Kase and Rensch] can continue to lead the offense deep into the playoffs,” he said. “[Zidar and Futa] have been key to stopping the run and pass this year.”
Unsurprisingly, Tomshack’s expectations for the Highlanders match those of O’Brien for Stanford.
“Our goal for the postseason is to make it back to the championship and come back with a better result,” Tomshack said. “We think it’s about time Duncan won a football championship.”
Stanford and Duncan kick off at 1 p.m. on Sunday at Ricci Family Fields.
Dillon v. Dunne
By Ellie Olmanson
Entering the the second round of the interhall playoffs, only eight teams remain. Either No. 2 Dillon (3-0) or No. 7 Dunne (2-1) will advance to the final four, and they will face off at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday.
Last week, Dunne shutout No. 10 Knott 10-0 in a penalty-littered game. Dunne has been coming off of its first loss of the regular season to begin the playoffs, but seemed to have made the proper adjustments.
Dunne is currently 2-1 on the season and is looking to embrace its young team during its first ever playoff run. The Sentinels have made sure to highlight the importance of creating a tradition that is desired to be a part of, given this is Dunne’s second year of residence to students.
Dillon recorded a win as a result of a Zahm forfeit. Junior Dillon captain David Chao said this forfeit has given his team higher energy and an extra week to prepare.
“For better or worse, Zahm forfeited last week’s game,” Chao said. “The fact that we don’t need as long of a recovery phase from a game and can hit a bit more in practice this week will be huge.”
Both teams are credited for tough defenses that allow little to no points for the opponent. Other than Dunne’s 13-0 loss against No. 3 Siegfried, the Sentinels have only allowed one touchdown over the course of the season. Comparably, Dillon has just six points allowed all season.
As far as scouting goes, both teams said they tried doing their homework on one another to prepare for this game.
“Because of the forfeit, we were able to scout Dunne a bit more than planned,” Chao said. “We’ve definitely keyed in on their best players and found ways to control and stop them to put our best players in positions to succeed.”
Dillon has not won a championship in recent history, and Chao said the team aims to stick to its game without trying to do too much in order to get the Big Red to Notre Dame Stadium.
“We’ve fared well in the playoffs,” Chao said. “But we tried to do too much instead of sticking to our guns and doing what we do best, which I feel is ultimately why we didn’t win a championship the last two years.”
In the first round of playoffs, there has only been one upset — No. 9 Duncan over No. 8 Fisher. However, Dunne aims to break this trend this weekend and advance.
Dunne takes on Dillon on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at Ricci Family Fields.
Alumni v. Keenan
By Hannah Wozniak
This Sunday, No. 5 Alumni (2-1) faces No. 4 Keenan (2-1) in the quarterfinals of the interhall playoffs.
Keenan junior Daniel Neuson said the Knights are looking to switch up their plays to avoid the opponents’ anticipation of their strategy.
“This week in practice, we’ve focused on locking in our schemes,” Neuson said. “We want to make sure no team can predict or stop what we’re doing on either side of the ball.”
He said his team also has strengths on both sides of the ball.
“On both offense and defense, we try to focus on good ball control,” Neuson said. “All year, we’ve given up very few takeaways and forced a lot of turnovers on defense.”
Neuson said Keenan has done some scouting on the Dawgs, but didn’t get a chance to see much. This year, the Knights have confidence in each one of their players on the field.
“Our biggest strength this year is definitely the depth of talent that we have,” Neuson said. “We’re always confident in each and every one of the 11 guys that are on the field, and interhall teams rarely have that luxury.”
Alumni captain and senior Thomas Hellios said the Dawgs are preparing their offense, particularly their game in the air.
“This week we have been focusing on our passing game,” Hellios said. “At this point in the season it’s all about tightening up some details and working on timing.”
Neuson said spectators should expect a lot of big hits and standout defensive plays from the Knights on Sunday.
“[Senior] Michael Feeney has been a lock-down corner for us this year,” he said. “[Senior] Will Boeschenstein has consistently disrupted other teams’ offenses.”
For the Dawgs, a few key players to watch are senior tight end and linebacker Sean Clarkin and senior defensive tackle Patrick Fleisher. Hellios said his team is known for big hits and “consistent, hard-nosed football.”
“We’re a pretty big and physical team which has been helpful,” Hellios said. “We also have a lot of seniors on the team who have been extremely helpful with leadership and organization.”
Overall, Hellios said he and the Dawgs are grateful for the chance to play in the interhall playoffs.
“I’m always looking forward to another chance to step on the field,” Hellios said. “The opportunity to play ball after high school is a big blessing and I am thankful for that.”
Keenan takes on Alumni at 1 p.m. on Sunday at Ricci Family Fields.
Siegfried v. Morrissey
By Hannah Wozniak
No. 3 Siegfried (3-0) and No. 6 Morrissey (2-1) gear up to face each other this Sunday as they meet for the first time this season in the interhall quarterfinals.
Siegfried captain and senior Mark Cerutti said the Ramblers are practicing hard this week in advance of the matchup against Morrissey.
“We’ve been focused on locking down our playbook and adding in more and more plays on both sides of the ball,” Cerutti said.
While the team has yet to do any scouting on Morrissey, Cerutti said they feel confident in their offensive and defensive strategies.
“We have a solid mix of pass and run on offense,” he said. “On defense we can always work on better tackling form.”
Cerutti said the team though is simply looking forward to playing the game.
“[It is] just another chance to get out there and play the game I love, and I know that’s how everyone on my team views it too,” Cerutti said. “We’ve all gotten on board with the coaching strategy, and we have great depth. Top to bottom, my guys know what to do for any play call.”
Cerutti said the Ramblers will not hold anything back while playing this weekend and are hoping for another one-sided victory. He mentioned junior quarterback Mikey Bernard as a key player to watch.
“Mikey, our starting [quarterback], has really come into form lately,” he said. “He had a huge game running and throwing last weekend. On defense our secondary has had quite a few turnovers and a few dropped interceptions so look out for some defensive scores.”
On the other side, Morrissey has been mixing things up in practice this week. Sophomore Thomas Slevin said that the Manor has been focusing primarily on its defense.
“[We were] working on getting more guys in the mix and trying some different schemes,” Slevin said. “[Our] offensive strategy will be to run the football, chip our way down the field and definitely work the clock. On defense, we look to work on our pass defense and stay disciplined.”
When Morrissey and Siegfried played each other last season, the Ramblers came away with the win. Slevin said Morrissey is aiming to achieve a different outcome this time around. He said the team’s biggest strengths are its defense and ability to run the ball effectively.
“[This will be] a very physical football game, as both teams have size,” Slevin said.
Morrissey and Siegfried will face off this Sunday at 2:30 at Ricci Family Fields.