Irish head to Lucas Oil for Nov. 28 State title game

Coach says Zionsville provides a tough opponent for his team

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Ethan Marasco

The Irish will have Mario McCullough in their hearts during the Class 5A State championship game on Nov. 28. Players carry McCullough’s jersey onto the field during a game earlier this season.

Will Mayer, Reporter

After a long six years, the Irish are finally back in the State championship football game. The blue and gold are playing for gold once again after defeating Castle 32-7 in the Semistate. The Irish will take on Zionsville at 7 p.m. at Lucas Oil Stadium on Nov. 28 for the Class 5A title.

Led by Head Coach Mr. Bill Peebles ’88, the Irish hope to bring home the big trophy. Peebles said, “Obviously, (the team is) pumped up. They were really excited after the game (on Nov. 20). Obviously it’s your goal to get here and now we’re accomplishing the final step.”

A video posted on Twitter after the Irish defeated Castle focused on the adversity this team has faced after the loss of Mario McCullough, who passed away last March. “Playing for 2” has helped the Irish get to the last day of the 2020 high school football season. Peebles said, “I think our players have handled that situation about as well and maturely as young adults can. It’s been really impressive and even a little bit surprising, because it’s a hard thing to do, and it takes a special group of kids to be able to do that.”

The Irish plan to carry the same mentality that they’ve used all season: The Irish vs the Irish. “This week, and really all season, it’s just about us and playing our style of football. Don’t let the Irish beat the Irish. We really haven’t changed what we’ve said all year. From Day 1 it’s always been about us and how we play and how we execute. So really, nothing has changed,” Peebles said about the team’s focus getting ready to play its last game of the season.

The Irish ultimately match up with the Eagles, who enter the game with an 8-5 record, well. Both teams run and pass the ball effectively, and both teams’ defenses are outstanding. Peebles said, “They’re a big, strong football team. They have a guy on the offensive line going to Notre Dame. They have two 300 plus pounders in the middle on defense. They have good size at the linebacker positions, so it’s going to be a challenge to stop the run, and obviously for us to run the ball between the tackles. Offensively, they pass the ball well.”

Peebles continued, “They have a good quarterback. He’s a big, strong kid. He has a good arm and he runs the ball really well. So our defense is going to be challenged to stop both the run and the pass. For us offensively, we’re probably a little quicker than they are. We’ll have to take advantage of that and obviously we can’t do it by just passing the ball all the time, so we will have to establish the run game.

Turnovers will absolutely be the difference maker.”

— Head Coach Mr. Bill Peebles '88

“And when it comes to our defense, they just need to read their keys, making sure their eyes are in the right spots. That would be the Number-1 thing. Don’t get beat deep on a play action, make sure that you’re not over committing to the run and in the passing defense, it’s getting to your proper drops depending on the route combination.”

Speaking of the defense, Peebles said, “Turnovers will absolutely be the difference maker. The one thing is, (these) two teams have had similar tracks in the tournament and that they’ve been very opportunistic off turnovers as well. The turnovers is what has kept them in games.

“Looking at the stats, they’ve had at least two takeaways in each tournament game. So they’ve been impressive defensively, so we’ve got to make sure we hold on to the ball and our defense just needs to make sure they keep doing what they’re doing, which is forcing teams into the long yardage situations and going to get the ball when it’s up in the air.”

Peebles has served as the head coach to the current seniors for three years. He’s seen them develop into the student athletes they are now. Peebles said, “My final message to them is don’t hold anything back, play to the best of your ability, enjoy the ride, and play loose and fast.”

Peebles expressed a final message to the entire Cathedral family: “Pretty much everybody is finally able to get a ticket. Go get one and support our guys in the State championship.”