By MIKE MONACO
A pair of teams riding two-game winning streaks square off in the first round of the playoffs when No. 4 Knott takes on No. 5 Dillon this Sunday.
The Juggerknotts (3-1) clinched their first trip to the playoffs since 2009 last Sunday with a 13-0 win over Morrissey. Heading into the postseason, Knott realizes the increased importance and intensity of each game, senior captain Dan Shaffer said.
"At this point there are no bad teams," Shaffer said. "So we need to come out every single game as if it's the championship so that we hopefully do get to the championship.
"There's a lot more hype and tension since the games mean a lot more [than in the regular season]. The atmosphere is a lot different. It seems a lot more official and a lot more tense."
Despite the differences between the playoffs and the regular season, the Juggerknotts plan to stick with what earned them the No. 4 seed while correcting their recent fumbling trend.
"Ball security is definitely a big thing [for us]," Shaffer said. "That will kill you [in the playoffs]. We put the ball on the ground five or six times against Morrissey."
While Knott clinched a playoff spot in Sunday's season finale, Dillon (3-1) closed out its regular season on Oct . 9. The Big Red are aware of the challenges that could arise from the long layoff, but are not overly worried.
"[The layoff] will probably show a little bit for the first few drives, but we've had a lot of practice and we've scrimmaged a few times," junior captain Will Salvi said. "I don't think it will be too bad. We'll be a little rusty [at first]."
Dillon is familiar with playoff football, having lost in the last year's championship game to Sorin. Although they are the No. 5 seed, the Big Red feel they can still make a deep playoff run.
"It doesn't matter what seed you are," Salvi said. "You need to be able to beat anyone if you want to win the championship. Our mentality is that if you beat everyone, you'll win the championship."
Dillon and Knott try to keep their championship hopes alive Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Riehle Fields.
Contact Mike Monaco at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sorin vs. Carroll
By JAMES SOUTHARD
Gold Division rivals Sorin and Carroll begin their quests for playoff glory this weekend in what is sure to be a closely fought battle.
Sorin (3-0-1), the defending interhall champion, looks to protect its title after winning it all in Notre Dame Stadium last year. This year's Sorin squad is a different sort of beast, but it is certainly still a team poised to make a deep playoff run, junior captain Ted Spinelli said.
"We lost a lot of senior leadership, but a lot of kids have stepped up," Spinelli said. "We've established a different environment that I like, and I like our chances moving forward."
Senior linebacker Brett Leahy and junior athlete Ryan Robinson will lead a well-balanced team into the first round.
"Last year, our offense was all about passing, but this year we've tried to include more of a running game to establish more balance," Spinelli said. "As for our defense, it's definitely a team strength. We've got some athletic guys who really get after the ball."
Carroll (2-1-1) made the playoffs last fall, but lost in the first round. The Vermin tied Sorin earlier this year, 14-14, but the Vermin realize this game will likely be determined by which team executes better.
"We've seen them, and they've seen us, and really, it's all about sharpening our execution now," junior captain Keith Marrero said.
Carroll made the playoffs behind several new standouts, including freshman receiver Greg Florio, but the season's success has come due to team effort, Marrero said.
"We relied pretty heavily on defense, and throughout the year, our defense has done well adjusting to our different opponents," Marrero said.
While Carroll's results may not indicate major flaws, the team recognizes it must cut back on its errors in fundamentals to have a chance at winning the championship.
"We definitely have had issues with mental mistakes," Marrero said. "They haven't proven extremely costly yet, but nonetheless, we'd like to eliminate those entirely."
Sorin and Carroll will meet for the second time this Sunday at Riehle Fields at 1 p.m., but this time, the loser goes home.
Contact James Southard at email@example.com
Siegfried vs. Stanford
By SCOTT FRANO
In what seems on the surface to be a mismatch, No. 1 Siegfried will face No. 8 Stanford in the first round of the interhall playoffs Sunday.
Siegfried (4-0) made it through the regular season undefeated to take the top seed, while Stanford (2-2) lost its last game and made the playoffs on a tiebreaker.
Siegfried's final win of the regular season was a 6-3 struggle against a Duncan team that finished 1-3. Ramblers senior captain and linebacker John Aversa knows his team cannot overlook anyone.
"We played hard. We had some mistakes, but we played hard," Aversa said. "It would be nice to come out a little sharper, but Duncan played well. We ended up getting the ‘W' and that's what we were looking for."
As the top seed and with the added weight of Siegfried's historic interhall success, the Ramblers might feel extra pressure, but Aversa said his team will not be affected by it.
"We have a lot of new guys on our team, and a lot of guys who weren't here last year," Aversa said. "It seems like we play with a new group every year. So I wouldn't say there's any added pressure there."
Stanford comes into the game fresh off a 19-6 loss to rival Keenan that nearly knocked them out of the playoffs. Junior captain and running back Paul Babiak said the emotional roller coaster could help his team.
"We were pretty down after losing because we knew if we had won we would definitely have been in," Babiak said. "Monday morning when the playoff brackets came out, we were pretty ecstatic to get in. We knew there was still a chance but we all thought our season was over."
Last year, the two squads met in the first round of the playoffs with then-No.5 Siegfried defeating then-No.4 Stanford, 28-3.
Stanford will try to flip the script on Siegfried at 1 p.m. Sunday at Riehle Fields.
Contact Scott Frano at firstname.lastname@example.org
Keenan vs. Alumni
By BRENDAN BELL
No. 2 Keenan will face No. 7 Alumni this weekend in a first-round playoff game, as both teams try to take the first step in reaching the championship at Notre Dame Stadium.
For the Knights (4-0), the regular season proved to be a success led by junior quarterback Andrew McDonough and junior receiver Nate Carr. Preparing for Alumni (2-2), Keenan hopes to improve its cohesiveness as a team.
"Before our game against Stanford last week, we hadn't played in four weeks," senior captain Erik Blackwood said. "We want to get back to playing like the beginning of the season, collaborating and working together ... We're set on playing in the Stadium. Anything else is a failure."
The Knights will face an unfamiliar opponent this weekend in the Dawgs.
"We don't know what to expect, as we haven't seen or played against them before," Blackwood said. "We've just been working hard at practice and picking up the tempo in preparation."
As the No. 7 seed, Alumni is looking to pull the upset this weekend. The Dawgs have lost two games this season, but their record doesn't indicate their quality of play so far, senior captain Dan Dansdill said.
"We've been close, but no cigar a lot this year," Dansdill said. "We're looking to pull it all together this weekend and I think we can do that."
Freshman quarterback Tyler Barron and sophomore receiver Jeff Kraemer lead Alumni. Knowing that Keenan's strength is in the passing game, Dansdill plans on pressuring the quarterback.
"We're going to come in aggressive and put pressure on their quarterback," Dansdill said. "Hopefully he will make some bad decisions."
The season is on the line this weekend, as both teams hope the playoff push goes further than the first round.
"Close doesn't cut it in the playoffs," Dansdill said.
Keenan and Alumni are set to play 2 p.m. Sunday at Riehle Fields.
Contact Brendan Bell at email@example.com