Undefeated Dillon to battle against Keenan Knights
By MATT CASSADY and JOHNNY LEITNER
It is deja vu all over again Sunday afternoon for the Dillon Big Red as it takes on the Knights of Keenan Hall at Stepan Fields.
Dillon faces off in a rematch of a regular season game for the second time in two weeks Sunday at 1 p.m. Last weekend, the Big Red handed Stanford a loss for the second time this season, 24-6.
They did not however escape unscathed, as the team sustained a few lasting bumps and bruises against the Griffins, according to senior captain Jason Visner.
"We have a couple separated shoulders, a broken toe and a few other things," he said. "But those have all been worked through and everybody should be playing this week, so we've got no excuses."
The Knights however, are not free from injury either. After polishing off the Alumni Dawgs in the previous playoff round, Keenan had some recovering to do this week to prepare for its semifinal matchup.
Still the Knights come in hungry for a second shot at the top-seeded Big Red according to sophomore quarterback Billy Ellsworth.
"After that Alumni game we've had a few serious injuries along with some minor ones where guys haven't been able to practice," said Ellsworth.
Even without the injuries, though, the teams would not have been the same according to Visner.
"We don't even really think about that [prior meeting with Keenan]," he said.
"Because we just played Stanford for the second time and it was obvious that the teams from the first and second week of the year and now deep in the playoffs are so much different that it is not even like playing the same team again."
Keenan trying to use its 16-0 shutout loss to Dillon in week two of the interhall season as motivation.
"We are a little better offensively than we were last time," said Ellsworth.
"We're going to just take what we've learned over the course of the season, go out there and execute our game plan better. Our linemen have a better grasp of what they are doing now, and our running backs definitely have a better grasp of what they are doing, so I think we should be a little crisper this time around."
While Stanford is hoping to make the necessary improvements to beat Dillon, the Big Red simply hopes for more of the same.
"We just want to keep our offense going the way it has been and keep winning games and we will end up right where we want to be," said Visner.
Where is that?
Notre Dame Stadium: a place Dillon's football team hasn't found itself in the four years Visner has been here.
Knott Hall vs. Sorin
This Sunday, Knott and Sorin will resume a rivalry that began last season on interhall football's grandest stage: the championship game held in Notre Dame Stadium.
In the wake of a 24-6 loss to Knott in last year's finale, the Sorin Otters are interested in retaliation, while the Juggs hope to keep their quest for a repeat championship alive.
Knott Hall advanced to this the semifinal round of the playoffs by defeating Zahm Hall 7-0 last week. In so doing, Knott's defense recorded its fifth consecutive shutout, but the game was hardly uncontested, as Zahm threatened to tie the game on several occasions.
"Our offense struggled," said Knott running back and captain Patrick Virtue. "But our defense kept us in there and played great."
The Juggs plan on sharpening their offensive execution for this week's clash with Sorin.
"We will fix some plays and make some adjustments," said Virtue. "We'll be ready for Sorin."
The Otters, meanwhile, met Fisher in the first round. After a tight first half, Sorin pulled away to win by a convincing 19-0 final score.
"We capitalized on some turnovers, and the defense played great and shut Fisher down," said Sorin captain Mike Crowe.
Crowe hopes to avoid last week's defensive mistake of relinquishing running yards in the first half last week.
"We plan on stepping up the run defense," said Crowe. "Knott's usually big up front, so we'll have to counter that."
Both teams anticipate an intense and competitive feud in their upcoming game.
"Sorin has a good offense and is known for their passing, so this will be a tough game," said Virtue. "The question is, who will be able to move the ball more?"
Knott has showcased a diversified offensive scheme this season, but they ultimately rely on a dominating defense, so Virtue sees this week's game as a collision of "strength on strength."
Crowe agrees, but adds that these two teams are solid on both sides of the ball.
"Knott has balance on offense and a strong pass rush," said Crowe. "But when we're clicking, we are very well-rounded."
Sorin and Knott both insist that their approaches will be unchanged for their clash.
"We'll be playing the same game," said Crowe.
However, this game is hardly just another day on the field.
"We have some playoff history," said Virtue, "and after last year, we have a real rivalry. Sorin is always one of the best teams."
Crowe agreed that this particular match-up has some extra significance. "Championship games are where these rivalries are born," he said.
The two teams are statistically almost even: Knott enters as the No. 2 seed, Sorin as No. 3.
Both teams are upbeat and confident about their prospects of advancing this Sunday.
"Last year we beat Keenan in the playoffs, and they beat us in the championship game for the two seasons before that, so we know what it's like to play rivals in the playoffs," said Crowe.
All Sports Stories for Friday, November 3, 2000