Varsity football to open season at Westfield

Defending State champions to take on the Shamrocks


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Head Coach Mr. Bill Peebles ’88 has his team ready for the season opener.

Will Mayer, Sports Editor

The Irish are looking to make another State tournament run and repeat their past successes this season with Head Coach Mr. Bill Peebles ’88 on the sideline. The football travels to Westfield on Aug. 20 to take on the Shamrocks at  7 p.m.

After a long nine months of waiting, the Irish are finally back on the field. Peebles ‘88 said, “Obviously, it’s great to be back. I’ve got the best job in the world. I wouldn’t even consider it a job. I work with great young men and great assistant coaches in a place that’s really supportive of football.”

Peebles finished last season with a 13-1 record and an IHSAA 5A State title victory. Peebles was also named 5A Coach of the Year. When comparing this season to last, Peebles said, “We’re really not trying to make (this season) better, we’re just trying to make it good every single day. You can’t really worry about if we’re going to be better or if we’re going to be worse. We just have to work hard and do your best every day. The results may not always come out like you want them to, but if you’re doing your best every day, it’s all going to shake out in the long run.”

The Irish have done their best to find new skill players on their offense with the loss of Nathan McCahill, Jake Langdon, Camden Jordan and David Perry, all of whom graduated last year Peebles said, “The offense will have a different feel than last year. The skill players who graduated that started for us; McCahill, Langdon, Jordan and Perry, those guys were all really good, explosive guys who had great senior seasons. They all finished their high school careers in a spectacular way.

“The guys who are replacing them have big shoes to fill, but we actually have quite a few guys in the skill positions who have experience. Seth Mencer had a lot of carries last year. Taz Garrett also had a lot of carries. Jaron Tibbs started as a sophomore. Michael Page started every game last year and played a little bit even as a sophomore. You also have our tight ends in (Brennan) Wooten and (Parker) Spellacy who are coming back as returning starters. So we have experience in those positions. The big one is that Danny O’Neil is going to start for us at the quarterback position. That’s a sophomore replacing an all-state senior. They all have big shoes to fill, but I have faith in all of them to do a great job.”

Peebles also mentioned junior David Ayers (wide receiver) and junior Carson Johnson (running back) getting a lot of reps this year at their respective skill positions. But when it comes to O’Neil, who hasn’t started a single varsity game yet, Peebles said, “He’s done a great job. There is a lot of hype about him, but what we see every day in practice is a guy who works hard and does his job. He’s earned his teammates’ respect. He does have a lot on his plate. He has big shoes to fill and I feel pressure for him. He may not feel it, but I feel it for him. Even though he’s our quarterback, he’s still part of the machine and his job is to get the ball to the guys who can make plays and he’ll do that.”

O’Neil has already received an NCAA Division I offer from the University of Toledo. He also keeps much of the State championship offensive line that played with McCahill under center last year. Peebles said, “It’s real important that we keep almost our entire offensive line. Will Sizemore is the only senior on the offensive line we had to replace. Sam Neale has stepped right in. He was even right on the edge of a starting job last year, but he had a few injuries in the early season. He’s been a great leader for us and he’s fit right into that group. We’re going to lean on that line heavily this year as we start the season against some really good football teams.”

When it comes to the defense, the Irish lose a lot of pivotal players from last year’s squad. The Irish have had to replace Zane Hill and Antoine Butler at the defensive back positions, David Guhl and Jayden Scruggs, two captains who were defensive ends, and linebacker Trey Henderson. Peebles said, “Zane, Antoine, our two defensive ends, Trey Henderson are all off to college right now. With that being said I think our defense is going to be heavily relied on. Our defense is where the core of our leadership group is with Jeff Utzinger, Huddy Miller, and Bryce Llewellyn. They three of our captains this year who all play huge roles on the team as leaders not only to our defense, but the entire team.”

Jeffrey Utzinger, one of the team captions, was given the opportunity to wear Mario McCullough’s  jersey this year. Peebles said, “In the spring we had a prayer ceremony on the football field on the one-year anniversary of Mario’s death. I pulled last year’s senior captains aside and I said, ‘When you guys graduate, Mario is graduating with you. He’s been with us all football season, but it’s time for him to graduate, too, and Number 2 is going to have to move on.’ I asked them to give me an idea of who they think Number 2 should be moving forward and they came up with Jeff.

“Jeff possesses great leadership (and) very good work ethic. He’s obviously a good player just like Mario was. I also think that he has the respect of his teammates, just like Mario did. He may be a little bit taller and bigger than Mario, but he carries a lot of the same attributes,” Peebles said.

Peebles said, “Our motto for the season is ‘Ipsa Duce Non Fatagaris,’ which is on our school’s crest and it means, ‘With Her Leading, We Shall Not Tire.’ The whole purpose of that is for us to limit distractions because a lot of our guys do have those distractions. They’re thinking about ‘where am I going go to college,’ ‘is a scholarship going to come.’ If they worry about that, their play is going to suffer. So what we need to do is limit distractions, focus on our job and work hard. Once it’s all said and done? Good things are going to happen.”