On a unseasonably warm Sunday afternoon in November, college football continued for another day featuring the Championship game between Sorin College and Keenan Hall for the Men's Interhall Football title. The Game of the Week crew was there for full coverage, and the game did not disappoint.
The game went right up until the last minute, and it really proved why football really is a game on inches. The game began with Sorin on the offensive first, however Keenan's defense immediately set the tone for the first half of the game. They came out fired up, and on the second play of the game, they stripped the ball from Sorin QB Edward Spinelli. The defense recovered the fumble and Keenan had all the momentum in the early stages of the contest.
As Keenan took over on offense, the went to work. Their fast-paced, pass happy offense found gaps in the Otter defense and a few plays later they were in for the score. A pass found a crossing receiver right at the front corner of the endzone. The PAT was converted and the Knights were leading 7-0.
The Otter offense was now back on the field, this time looking to put their mistake behind them and put some points on the board. Unlike the Knights, Sorin kept the ball on the ground for most of the game and it seemed to be pretty effective. On their first drive they successfully moved the ball down the field, primarily with the running game with a few passes here and there to mix it up and keep the defense on their toes. Problems arose for the Otters however when they were faced with a 3rd and long situation in Knights territory. When they did not convert on 3rd down and without a solid kicking game, they were forced to go for it on 4th down. And once again, the Keenan defense stepped up. With a big bruising running back in senior Ryan Robinson, the Otters tried to crash their way over the line, but they were unsuccessful.
The Knights took over on downs. And away their offense went. Led by senior QB Andrew McDonough, Keenan drove right down to the Otter's endzone. After converting 4th-and-5 on their way down the field, the Knights were able to punch it in once again, this time with a 3-yard running touchdown. They slotted the PAT and were up 14-0.
Sorin was up once again, and this time they were determined to get the ball into the endzone. They drove all the way down the field, with a balanced attack of runs and passes, and worked their way to within the opponents 10 yard line. With time against them now, they tried to get some points on the board, but a holding penalty on second down was yet another obstacle they needed to overcome. While they made a huge gain on 2nd down, they were still 6 yards away from the endzone with less than 10 seconds left. Time enough for two chances but they needed to be efficient. The first attempt fell incomplete, and on 4th down, the Keenan defense held again. They would stop the Otters short of the goal line and as time expired they would enter the half ahead 14-0.
While Sorin was disappointed not to come away with some points in the first half, they did not get down on themselves and there was still plenty of time to play. But they did not make it easy on themselves. On the second play of the second half, McDonough found a wide-open receiver on a stop-and-go route which put him well behind the Otter defense. A perfectly thrown ball found its way into the outstretched hands of the receiver on his way to a 60-yard touchdown. The PAT was blocked however, and the Otters work was cut out for them.
When most teams would give up and get down on themselves, the Otters did not. With the cheers and adoration of hundreds of fans in the stadium they continued to fight. When Sorin lined up, the Keenan defense expected the usual run-heavy attack, but two consecutive deep pass plays put the Otters within the Knights' 10 yard line. A fade to the back of the endzone put the Otters on the board for the first time. Without a kicking game, they attempted a two-point conversion but were held out. The score was now 20-6. But if they wanted any chance at the championship title, the Otters' defense needed to step up.
And they did. It wasn't until late in the 3rd quarter that the game's first punt was recorded but it couldn't have come at a more needed moment. After a fumbled snap, a false start penalty, and an incompletion, the Otters' defense showed it could stop the Knights. And when they took over on offense, they showed they could run with them as well. Instead of their normal pro-style attack, the Otters' switched to an option-style attack with Spinelli torching the Knights defense on the ground. Big gains from the run opened up the passing attack and although they faced a daunting 3rd and 17 on their opponents 22, Spinelli completed a pass to WR John Pearl who hauled in the catch in the back of the endzone. With another failed conversion attempt, they were now only down 20-12.
Once again, the pressure was placed on the Otters' defense. And once again they proved their valor. McDonough's first mistake came at a costly moment, when he tried to force a pass down the field on 3rd down, and it was intercepted by an Otter defender. They now had possession and a chance to tie the game. On the ensuing play, Spinelli hooked up with a wide-open Pearl once again who made an incredible diving catch for the touchdown.
The Otters were now within 2 points and needed the conversion to tie the game with just about 2-minutes left in the contest. But just as before, their running attack was stopped at the goal line and they were held out once again. When their defense could not stop the Knights from gaining a first down, the game was over. McDonough took a knee and the clock ticked to 0:00. The Knights of Keenan Hall would hold on in the final minutes of the game to win the Interhall Men's Championship.
When interviewed after the game, although disappointment was apparent, senior RB Ryan Robinson had nothing but praise for his team and his teammates and they way they played. To come back from being down 20-0 to within 2 points was a tremendous achievement. He attributed their success to both his offense and defense for never putting their heads down and continuing to fight.
Senior Andrew McDonough for Keenan Hall, also praised his teammates and their ability to step up through the adversity they faced all season long. Despite injuries, the Knights continued to battle and during the championship game when they suffered a key injury on their defensive side, the Knights came through and made a massive goal line stand.
Thanks to everybody who came out and supported both teams in such a wonderful game.