Irish to battle Whiteland for 5A Regional title

Team dominates Decatur Central in Sectional championship


Grace Straley

Senior David Perry hauls in a pass during the regular season game against Center Grove.

Will Mayer, Reporter

Another week, another tournament game for the Fighting Irish. 

During an interview via Zoom on Nov. 8, Head Coach Mr. Bill Peebles ‘88 provided his outlook on the Class 5A Regional game on Nov. 13 against Whiteland. 

Before the Sectional, Peebles and his team planned to get their feet back under them with the week off before their State tournament run. The Irish have been hot throughout the tournament thus far. Peebles said, “The two games that we’ve played, we’ve had running clocks in the second half. I think our defense has played outstanding football both weeks, and offensively we were optimistic in using the defense’s turnovers to capitalize on them and score after the turnovers. 

“I do think we can play better offensively than we have in the last two weeks and we have to this week vs. Whiteland.” 

And the Irish must play good football because Whiteland has put up a tremendous amount of points throughout their tournament run, beating their first Sectional opponent 66-0 and handling New Palestine 48-13. 

Everybody remembers the heartbreaking loss to New Pal in the Regional last year, as the Irish came up short at the end of the game with a lead going into halftime, as three big turnovers changed the outcome of the game. Peebles plans not to let another Regional loss happen again this year. 

The coach said, “It’s just like we’ve said all year, that each week as we prepare for our opponents, in reality, we’re preparing against ourselves and to play with the best of our ability. One thing, if you look at the New Pal game last year, we had three turnovers in the second half. We were up at halftime. So really, this week is going to come down to the team that turns the ball over and makes mistakes is the team that’s going to lose.

We just have to play a really clean game, play fundamentally sound and not turn the ball over.”

— Head Coach Mr. Bill Peebles '88

“From our perspective, we just have to play a really clean game, play fundamentally sound and not turn the ball over,” Peebles said. The Irish played that really clean game against Decatur Central on Nov. 6, with only one turnover in the second half on a fumble by senior Jake Langdon. The Irish won the Sectional title game 42-7. 

The Irish have put into play the mentality of competing against themselves every week. Peebles said, “We are still going to continue to carry this mentality not just this season but as long as I’m here because in reality, you have a certain amount of talent on each team, and each year, it’s going to be different. We have a talented team, so we just have to play within ourselves and make sure we play to the best of our ability. And if you play to the best of our ability, the chips might just fall where they may. 

“We played a really good game against Center Grove. We didn’t turn the ball over. We weren’t able to move the ball well, but we played safe and our defense made some big plays. We played really great against Center Grove and we came up a little bit short against a great team. We had opportunities to win. You can walk out of that game with your head high. So as long as we’re playing to the best of our ability, we’ll expect a good outcome.” 

The Irish have played exceptionally well throughout the tournament, but there have been some standout players that Peebles said he thinks can really make a difference in the Regional. 

Peebles said, “Zane Hill, our senior defensive back, played an unbelievable game. He caught two interceptions. One of them was absolutely spectacular. Really our defense only gave up 30 yards of rushing to a team that likes to run the ball. We played really stout up front, our line-backing crew has played well, and the ball is falling into our DB’s hands. 

“So defensively I think we’re hitting on all cylinders right now. (Senior quarterback) Nate McCahill had a really fine game, too. He had 300 yards of total offense, 100 yards rushing and over 230 passing yards with four touchdown passes.” 

And McCahill, who has been named the City Player of the Year, cannot have any of these stats without his Pitbull Security, the offensive line. Peebles said, “The offensive line play has continued to improve. They’re going to be tested this week because this is going to be one of the better defensive lines that we play all year. We’ve faced some good ones. I wouldn’t put their D-Line in the Center Grove category, but I’d put them up against anybody else that we’ve played. They’re stout, athletic and well-coached.”

The key in this Regional game is who can score the most without turning the ball over. Everybody knows that you can’t win a game with turnovers. The Irish have a common opponent with Whiteland, and that is Decatur Central. The Irish obviously handled the Hawks but Decatur Central handled Whiteland pretty well. Both teams are coming into this game with only one loss. 

When it comes to turning the ball over, Peebles said, “This is something I’m going to have to tell our guys. Decatur Central turned the ball over five times vs. us, which equated to a big win. Whiteland turned the ball over four times against Decatur Central, which led to a DC win. It is about us and not turning the ball over and not making mistakes and doing all the things that they’re taught to do

“It really comes down to just that because we have some equally talented opponents, and if we turned the ball over this past Friday, Decatur Central gets momentum and it’s a whole different ball game. This game really comes down to us not making mistakes.” 

Peebles says Whiteland is a very talented squad with some solid players. “They have a really good team. They are a big and strong football team. They rush for over 400 yards a game they obviously put up 40+ points on New Pal, and they won their previous game 66-0. This team is a really good football team. They’re big and strong up front, they have two talented running backs, a tight end who’s also a defensive end who’s a D1 kid. They have a lot of really good players and were going to have to play really well against them.”

Covid-19 can still knock the Irish out of their playoff run as well. When it comes to the pandemic, Peebles said, “I think our players have done a good job adhering to the protocols. Obviously I don’t know what they do when they go home, but we have to trust them to do the right thing in their situations. It’s worrisome, in fall break and Halloween, the numbers have gone up. It’s just the bottom line. 

“And I know the school’s number of cases has gone up, whether it be the students or the staff, we have more people on quarantine right now than we’ve probably ever had. This stuff spreads fast. There were multiple games that were canceled this weekend where a team had to forfeit because they were unable to play because of Covid. We have to just take it day-by-day and be smart about what we do.”

Peebles encouraged fans, students, parents and alumni to pay attention to this historic season that the Irish are putting on and support the team. Peebles said, “If you can’t get to the game, please listen or watch the game. Our guys have been outstanding this year. They’re a special group of young men and I hope that our fans, students and alumni can still enjoy what these guys are doing whether it be online, which I’m sure they are going to broadcast our game, or on the radio like it is each week.

“So listen to the game and support our guys even if you may not be able to get there.”