Coach reflects on State title, team’s accomplishments

Goal of winning for Mario comes to fruition at Lucas Oil


Grace Straley

On the field at Lucas Oil Stadium, Head Coach Mr. Bill Peebles ’88 address the team after the presentation of the State championship trophy.

Will Mayer, Reporter

The Irish finished off their historic season by winning the Class 5A State championship, defeating Zionsville in a showdown that resulted in a 46-28 victory over the Eagles. Head Coach Mr. Bill Peebles ‘88 led this outstanding team to a 13-1 (its only loss was to Class 6A State champion Center Grove), and according to MaxPreps, the Irish finished as the 19th best team in the nation. 

Peebles said. “This is arguably one of the best teams in the history of Cathedral High School, and it’s a good argument. I think the Class of ‘96 and a few others out there would have a claim at that title being undefeated, but you’ve got to keep in mind, they didn’t play the schedule that we did. 

“There might also be some teams out there that might be a little more talented than this team, but when it comes to guys playing together, for each other, for a common cause, at a high level every single week for an entire season, I’m not sure there’s been a better team than this.” 

Peebles said as the clock was winding down to zero at Lucas Oill Stadium that he felt a sense of relief. All the work the Irish had done since July 3 finally paid off. Peebles said, “It was a hard fought game even though we had control of it. Zionsville challenged us, but our kids on both sides of the ball stepped up and made plays when they had to. So especially when you get to the end of a season, especially one like this where there’s so much going on, there’s always a sense of relief and that’s probably how I felt.

“When I did have the chance to talk to them, I told them I was proud of them, that they were a special group. Then I told the sophomores to go clean up.”

Everybody knew that the Irish had a lot of potential to be 2020 State champs at the end of last year but losing Mario McCullough, who passed away last March, really set the Irish back to square one. Everybody knew the Irish had to unite as a team and win for Mario. The Irish did exactly that. 

Our players are the ones who believed in playing for 2.”

— Head Coach Mr. Bill Peebles '88

Peebles said, “Our players are the ones who believed in playing for 2 (referring to McCullough’s jersey number). Handling a situation like the death of a teammate gets really tricky because everybody handles death differently. It’s part of life, but it’s always hard, especially when you’re in high school because it doesn’t happen very often. 

“Our kids had an uncommon maturity in the way they handled it. I’ve been part of teams and have seen teams that have been in these situations where it didn’t go very well and these guys were an uncommon team, with uncommon seniors, with uncommon maturity. And when I say uncommon that is an ultimate compliment.”

The Irish went for a two-point conversion after every first touchdown they scored each game to commemorate the tragic loss that occurred last spring. Peebles said, “It’s just something that we on the coaching staff brought up and everybody said, ‘Let’s do it.’ So we decided we’re going to do exactly that. I told the kids the week before (the season opener) that this was our plan. They liked it, so I told them, ‘we better get really good at two-point conversions.’ And we did. Our kids bought in to it and it ended up being really good for us. 

“I really don’t know if we’re going to continue going for two next year. It gave us some advantages in some games, even though we didn’t make it every time. But I don’t know, we’ll think about it. I’m glad we were consistent with it. At no point, no matter who we played, we never said that we probably shouldn’t go for two because it might cost us the game. Every single person was 100% on board with us doing it, no questions asked.”

Looking to next year’s squad, Peebles said,  “They have very big shoes to fill. I think right now, if we have to worry about their mental and physical shape, I’d say these guys need a break. They’ve been going hard since day one on July 3. We will have an awards ceremony, and the date is to be determined because of Covid. But they need to take a break. They need to take a deep breath, enjoy the moment, and after Christmas we start thinking about football season 2021. Hopefully we are back in school in January so things can calm down a little bit but we just don’t know.

“We are obviously not ready to name starters for next year. Even though we had guys who started this year who were underclassmen, those guys still have to work hard in the offseason and do what they need to do to secure their spots again. 

“One of the great things about this team was how deep we were. We had multiple players in multiple positions that could play. As I said earlier, we may not have been the most talented team I’ve ever been around. I’ve been around teams with some major D1 athletes and I think this team does have D1 athletes, they just haven’t been offered with an opportunity yet, or they’re younger. 

“But right now we only have one of our starting seniors who has been offered a Division I college scholarship to play football and that’s Cam Jordan. But he’s going to go play baseball at Louisville. Other than that our guys are all looking. Part of that is, colleges don’t know what to do because they don’t know who they’re getting back because of the pandemic. They don’t have the scholarships available right now. 

“But back to the main question, I don’t know who are going to be our starters right now, but we have a lot of really good players. It’s going to be highly competitive and everyone is going to have to work really hard in the off season. There are guys that didn’t start this year who I guarantee you will have an opportunity to start next year because they are going to will themselves into being a starter. (Senior quarterback Nathan) McCahill is a great example of that. He never started at quarterback until this year, and now he’s a Mr. Football candidate. I just encourage our guys to work their tails off and prepare for next season.

“I even think our freshman varsity backup, Danny O’Neil, will be competing in the same boat as everyone else. We have (junior) Drew Dittoe who’s coming back from an injury. (Junior) Justin Sage is looking to improve and get better, so there’s competition at every single level.”

In appreciation for all of the students and family here on the Hill, Peebles said, “I just hope that our student body and really everyone in the Cathedral family are proud of these guys. This whole thing has really been hard and what they’ve done is special not just because of the State championship, but because of the way they’ve handled themselves and fought through adversity, and protected themselves from Covid. 

“They made all the little good decisions that needed to be made for us to have not only a successful season but a season that actually happened. There were a lot of schools that didn’t get to play or play very much. Some state (athletic associations) didn’t handle this situation the way (Indiana) did, so I’m just grateful for our seniors and everything they’ve done and where we’re at.”