Defending champs knocked out in first round
By MATT LOZAR and PHIL KOESTERER
The men's interhall football league will have new champions this season. The No. 3 Fisher Green Wave capitalized off three second half turnovers to defeat the No. 6 Keenan Knights 26-7 on Sunday.
"It was awesome because it was our first big test," said junior Fisher captain Ray Aftandilians. "The guys came up huge."
Fisher stopped Keenan on the opening drive of the game. Then, the Green Wave took the early lead on a five-yard touchdown pass from freshman quarterback Jimmy Costanzo.
Keenan came right back and answered with an 11-play drive that included two third-down pass interference calls.
Freshman quarterback Patrick Downey threw a 10-yard pass to junior Steve Byrnes to tie the game at 7-7.
"I thought we played really good in the first half," said Keenan junior captain Brent Morlok. "But in the second half, a couple of turnovers killed our drives."
Fisher came storming out in the second half and scored on the second play of the half. Costanzo hit junior Dan Donlan on a 60-yard pass across the middle for a 13-7 lead.
"Dan has been struggling this season," said Aftandilians. "He redeemed himself [with that catch]."
Costanzo then led the Green Wave down the field again after the first Keenan fumble. He found freshman Tom Gorman in the corner of the end zone to put the Wave up 19-7.
"Jimmy has been awesome this year," said Aftandilians. "It has been great to have a freshman lead the team. He has the respect of every guy."
A second Keenan fumble gave Fisher the ball again. An eight-play drive allowed sophomore running back Kameron Chappell to score and put the final nail in the coffin.
"We realized that if we didn't play better than we did in the first half, our season would be over," said Aftandilians.
Keenan's breakdowns in the defensive backfield and turnovers led to their defeat.
"Long passes killed us in the second half," said Morlok. "Our secondary broke down."
Fisher gained some energy for that second half run from their fans that lined the sidelines and offered loud support.
"I want to thank the crowd for coming out for the second week in a row," he said. "It had a big effect on the team."
Keenan's ends its season without fulfilling its goal of repeating as champions, and winning the title for the fourth time in five years.
"We had an up-and-down season," said Morlok. "We are disappointed to not win the championship. We expected more than getting knocked out in the first round."
Fisher advances to the semifinals against Siegfried. Aftandilians knows that game will be difficult but hopes Fisher's fans will come out again.
"It is going to be the hardest game of the season," he said. "We seem to be evenly matched. It is going to come down to who wants it more."
Siegfried 20, Keough 6
The No. 2 Siegfried Ramblers played solid football on Sunday, and they simply played better than the No. 7 Keough Kangaroos in their 20-6 playoff victory.
Although Keough committed four turnovers, Siegfried converted on the most important one, with Travis Smith running the ball in to the end-zone three plays after Siegfried intercepted a pass from Keough quarterback Andy Hess at the six-yard line.
This important score gave Siegfried a 20-6 lead and a lot of breathing room with about three minutes left to play in the game.
Refusing to go down without a fight, however, Keough mounted a 14-play drive spanning more than 50 yards before Pete Aguiar intercepted a Hess pass into the end zone.
Hess showed flashes of brilliance earlier in the game, most notably when he moved back into shotgun formation on Keough's first-half scoring drive and scrambled for a first down and made four completions, including a touchdown pass to Brian Adams on a broken play.
If the Keough quarterback was good on their scoring drive, the only thing that kept him from greatness on their final drive was a turnover instead of a touchdown. Unfazed by three Siegfried sacks, Hess went (5 of 8) passing for three first downs to Adams and James Waechter and scrambled to move the chains a fourth time before Aguiar's interception.
"[Siegfried] started pass rushing really well, and it was hard for me to get out of the pocket," said Hess. "They also had an answer to our running game; it was just frustrating for our offense."
"We flushed [Hess] out with pressure from the line, but we didn't get him on the ground enough," said Smith, who is also a co-captain. "He's a good athlete."
Keough's attempted heroics were simply not enough, however, to beat a consistently good Siegfried offense that outscored opponents 61-7 in the regular season.
The Ramblers had relied on quarterback Rob Plumby and tailback Travis Smith to make big plays, and they did not disappoint on Sunday.
Smith had a long run on the first play of Siegfried's second drive to set up Plumby's first touchdown pass, to Mike Wahl. The Rambler defense shut down the Kangaroos and gave the ball back to Plumby who hit a wide-open Bill Bingle to put the score at 13-0.
"We got up early, that was pretty crucial," said Smith. "At half time, the guys looked kind of disappointed that we allowed them to score. We picked it up when we had to."
All Sports Stories for Tuesday, November 6, 2001