Defending State champs to open tournament play

Irish will host Terre Haute North on Oct. 22 in Sectional opener

After+a+regular+season+loss+to+6A+top-ranked+Center+Grove%2C+the+varsity+football+team+opens+tournament+play+on+Oct.+22+by+hosting+Terre+Haute+North.+

Ashlynn Bakemeyer

After a regular season loss to 6A top-ranked Center Grove, the varsity football team opens tournament play on Oct. 22 by hosting Terre Haute North.

Will Mayer, Sports Editor

After their loss to 6A powerhouse Center Grove, the Irish look to bounce back as they look to make history again in this year’s 5A tournament with Head Coach Mr. Bill Peebles ‘88 — last year’s Class 5A Coach of the Year — on the sideline for his fourth year as head coach. 

This year, the Irish do not get the coveted bye week as a result of the Indiana High School Athletic Association’s blind draw. The Irish will play Terre Haute North on Oct. 22. 

Peebles said, “I think we’re ready to go. We had a very successful playoff run last year. I think these guys have some history to make. If they complete the run this year, they’re going to go on the best two-year playoff run in the history of Cathedral football. There’s never been back-to-back years where our team has only had one-loss seasons. We’ve had some 13- and 14-win teams, but it’s never happened in back-to-back seasons. These guys have some history to make and hopefully they realize the opportunity to be a special group of players here at Cathedral if they complete this thing.

“I think coming off a loss, there’s an advantage to not having a bye week. Right now, we feel like we let one slip away from us against Center Grove. I think that we fell like we were the better team for three quarters. For us to get back at it and get that taste out of our mouth is a huge deal for us.”

The Irish share three opponents with the 3-6 Terre Haute North team this year in Columbus North, Bishop Chatard and Brebeuf Jesuit. All three teams beat Terre Haute North in dominating fashion. 

When it comes to this Terre Haute North team, Peebles said they have some solid athletes, despite their losing record of three wins and six losses. Peebles said, “Some guys to keep an eye on are their running back. He’s a good ball player and an explosive kid. Their quarterback is also an excellent football player. They are an athletic team. Those two guys can score at any point in the game. They’re fast enough to get behind us and make a guy miss. 

“Defensively, they’re big up front. Their defensive end is their biggest guy. He’s a good athlete. Their 6-foot-2, 185-pound safety is pretty good. He can run and make plays. That safety also plays a little bit of offense as well.”

With the Irish losing to Center Grove, Peebles mentioned it was an advantage to play the Trojans right before the playoff because the game allowed Peebles to see what his team needed to patch up before tournament play. Peebles said, “Defensively, we’re working on not giving up the big play. Offensively, we need to work on finishing drives, which we’ve struggled with the whole season. We have to be able to operate in the red zone and finish drives against good teams. We’ve done it against average teams, but we need to do it against good teams. We struggled against Westfield, Brownsburg and Center Grove in that way.”

Some of the worries for the Irish, in the Center Grove game, were making sure that the team would remain healthy after the game; that there would be no major injuries holding players back from competing in tournament play. Peebles said, “Right now, our guys are looking pretty healthy. We’re in pretty good shape. We didn’t have any major injuries. I think going into that big game against Center Grove, and going into tournament play right after, both teams were a little worried in that factor. But we’re looking pretty good health-wise.”

Sophomore quarterback Danny O’Neil had an outstanding regular season in his first year as a starter, passing for 1,899 yards and 22 touchdowns with a completion average of 61%. Peebles said, “O’Neil has done a great job. He’s had a great sophomore year in his first year as a starter. I think he exceeded expectations when it comes to taking care of the football and simply managing our football team. I think he’s ahead of schedule from a developmental standpoint. We’re always trying to get better, and as he continues to grow and mature, he’ll be able to make more quick and easy decisions on a consistent basis.”

The Irish defense has been the pride of this football team all year, allowing only 11 touchdowns in the regular season. They have come up with 13 interceptions and 20 sacks on the year. They look to increase those numbers as they get into tournament play. Peebles said, “I think that our defense is a self-motivated group. I think that they have a lot of pride in themselves and in their play. I think they’re going to come out even hungrier in the playoffs.”