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The Other Notre Dame Football

Nov 20, 2012, 2:08 PM EST

The Keenan Knights (Photo courtesy of University of Notre Dame RecSports Facebook) The Keenan Knights (Photo courtesy of University of Notre Dame RecSports Facebook)

Everyone knows that football is a big deal at Notre Dame, but it goes further than head coach Brian Kelly and his men in gold and blue.

Men’s interhall tackle football is a chance for guys who either played high school football to put on their pads and helmets again and do what they love or for them to try football for the first time and be part of a team. Women’s interhall flag football is a chance for girls to show people that they’re made of sugar, spice, and everything nice, with a dash of toughness and determination thrown in the mix.

This year, men’s interhall football found the Sorin College Otters and the Keenan Hall Knights battling each other for the championship in Notre Dame Stadium. No. 2 Keenan defeated No. 1 Sorin on Sunday, Nov. 18 in what may have been the last game ever played on grass in the Stadium (but whether those Internet rumors are true is still to be determined).

These guys are good, too. A good majority, if not all of them, played high school football, so there’s no lack of experience. Not to mention, David Ruffer, the starting kicker for most of the 2009 football season and the entire 2010 and 2011 seasons for the Fighting Irish was discovered playing interhall football for Siegfried Hall.

Keenan (6-0-1) fought hard all season and practiced two to three times every week to get to play on the hallowed ground that is Rockne’s House. Keenan quarterback, captain, and coach, Andrew McDonough (’13) said, “We battled a lot of adversity this year. We had to have a lot of guys step up due to injuries, [or] due to guys having to miss games and we really developed a sense of team and a sense of brotherhood, and I think that’s what interhall football’s all about. And to be able to play my final game in the stadium with those guys this year was really, really special. If you take away one of the 24 guys on the team, I don’t think we would have made it to the Stadium, so it was really a team effort.”

For the seniors, it means even more.

“[Playing in the stadium] was unbelievable, especially for the seniors. I was so happy that we all had a chance to play in the stadium for the final game–really the final game that we’ll play in pads. You know, to play in Notre Dame Stadium, to have that opportunity, it’s hard to put into words, and I’m just really happy that I was able to share it with the seniors who had played with me for 3 or 4 years, and then really happy that the younger guys had a chance to experience that, and I hope they get back to the stadium next year.”

For the girls, too, interhall football is taken very seriously. Girls can’t grow up hoping to someday be on the Notre Dame Football team, but interhall flag football allows them to at least dream of playing in the football stadium.

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The McGlinn Shamrocks (Photo courtesy of University of Notre Dame RecSports Facebook)

Emily Golden, the senior captain and quarterback for the reigning champion McGlinn Hall Shamrocks, said, “Playing in the stadium was surreal. It was the most amazing experience and I am thrilled we were blessed with that opportunity. It is something we will all carry with us for the rest of our lives. Not too many people get to say they played an entire game of football in Notre Dame Stadium, and some of my teammates can say they’ve done it twice. It was especially meaningful to me because I missed our championship season last year while I was abroad, so it was great to be able to get a championship of my own and play in the stadium.”

McGlinn defeated the Walsh WILD Women to remain champions. The win was very emotional for Golden and her fellow seniors on the team.

“After it was over I was just trying to soak it all up, and I know the other seniors were, too. We worked so hard to get to the stadium and it was just an awesome feeling knowing that all that hard work paid off. We love playing football with our teammates and we’ve all grown so close over this past semester. While we were still ecstatic and celebrating our win, it was hard to come to terms with the fact that this was the last time we will play with these girls. I couldn’t be prouder of my team and I know they will be a force next year too.”

Interhall Football is one of the many reasons Notre Dame is so unique. Ask anyone who plays, and they’ll probably tell you how great it is and how thankful they are that it exists.

McDonough expressed just that. “I’m just grateful to RecSports for keeping this tradition going because, I know it’s not easy, and I know that they take a lot of risk on it, but the fact that we have an opportunity for us to keep playing after high school playing tackle football, is just unmatched. It’s awesome.”

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