Top-ranked Alumni takes on Fisher in first round
By KEVIN BERCHOU
The hits will be that much harder and the play on each down will be intensified as the interhall football playoffs get underway this Sunday.
At 1 p.m. the top-seeded Alumni Dawgs will take on the eighth-ranked Fisher Green Wave in what looks to be a competitive clash.
Alumni, which cruised through regular season en route to a 4-0 record, won the Blue League championship and will no doubt be looking to remain on a roll. The Dawgs' smothering defense, which did not allow a single point during regular season, looks to be getting even stronger as senior defensive end Ryan Jochum and sophomore linebacker Brandon Nunnink return from early season injuries.
"Our defense has been great all year long," Alumni captain Pat Paquette said. "We have a great corps of defensive backs that shut down the pass and force our opponents to run."
Alumni will look to force Fisher to keep the ball on the ground and play into the strength of the Dawg defense. Alumni features a sterling front seven that has harnessed the opponents' rushing attack thus far.
Fisher, which relies on a smash-mouth offensive attack it calls "Fisher ball" may end up playing right into Alumni's strength.
"We're not going to let them run the ball," Paquette said.
The Dawgs compliment a brilliant defense with an equally capable offense. Led by sophomore quarterback Matt Anton-Giovanni and senior tailback Tom Dietrich, Alumni features a potent rushing attack.
"We'll get everything started on the ground and use the run to set up the pass," Paquette said. "Both our quarterback and tailback are excellent runners."
Fisher will have to be particularly leery of Dietrich, a talented athlete, who has shown big-play ability all year. Though the Dawgs are first and foremost a running team, Anton-Giovanni is a dangerous passer and his talents will no doubt be utilized.
Though a matchup pitting the top seed against the lowest seed might seem one sided, Alumni is not approaching the game lackadaisically.
"We're not going to take them lightly," Paquette said. "I think we're going to win though."
Keenan vs. Sorin
In a game that could go down as one of the season's best, the third-seeded Keenan Knights — the two-time defending league champion — will battle the sixth-ranked Sorin Otters in a rematch of last year's title game. The Otters have revenge on their minds, but they face a daunting task in attempting to end the Knights' 18-game unbeaten streak.
Keenan enters postseason play seeded third by virtue of 3-0-1 regular season record. The Knights feature a swarming defense that pitched shutouts in each of its four outings. Senior player/coach Dong Min anchors a strong secondary that discourages opponents from taking to the air. Talented linebackers Eric Nelson and Joe Klopp combine with senior standout defensive end Doug Kraft to snuff out the opposition's running game. The ablity to stop both the run and the pass make Keenan's defense very well-rounded.
Offensively, however, the Knights have shown some chinks in their armor. They failed to score in a season ending scoreless tie with Keough.
"We've yet to find our niche offensively," Keenan captain Herb Giorgio said. "Our offensive line struggled to open up holes against Keough, so we'll be looking to improve on that. We're treating that game as a wake up call, and we'll be looking to improve on offense."
Running back Nick Costanzo will be called upon early and often, as the Knights will attempt to establish the running attack at the game's onset.
Freshmen quarterback Billy Ellsworth will be hoping to regain his early season form, which saw him throw scores in each of his first three outings.
If the time has come for Keenan's unbeaten streak to come to an end, the Sorin Otters may just be the team to do it. The Otters feature the league's most explosive passing attack fueled by the nearly unstoppable combination of senior signal caller Luke Buerlein and sure-handed freshman wideout Greg Carney. The pair has struck fear in the opposition, hooking up on numerous occasions for long scores. The Otters are a pass-oriented team, and will go to the run only if the air attack fails.
"We'll be looking to spread it around," said Carney. "We're going to try to keep them on their toes."
Defensively the Otters will employ a strategy very much the opposite of Keenan's. Sorin will look to take away the run and make the Knights pass.
The game's outcome will likely hinge on the success of Keenan's thus far insurmountable defense against Sorin's yet to be contained passing attack.
All Sports Stories for Friday, October 29, 1999