Irish are ready for the Regional

Varsity to host New Palestine at Arsenal Tech


Ashlynn Bakemeyer

During the regular season game against Brebeuf Jesuit, senior running back Seth Mencer sweeps right. Mencer and his teammates will host New Palestine on Nov. 12 for the Regional championship.

Will Mayer, Sports Editor

After the dominant 31-7 victory over second-ranked Decatur Central for the Sectional championship, the Irish immediately set their sights on New Palestine, an 8-3 team that seems to be hitting its stride at the right time. This will be the Irish’s third straight Regional appearance since 2018.

Head Football Coach Mr. Bill Peebles ‘88 describes the difficult challenges brought the Nov. 12 game.

The Irish will see a drastically different New Pal team than they saw back in 2019, the Charlie Spegal team that went on to win the 5A State title for the second consecutive year. This year, the Irish look to do what the Dragons did: win two consecutive State championships. Peebles said, “That team two years ago was all seniors. The team we play this year is actually pretty young. They have quite a few sophomores playing. New Pal is where we were two years ago. They’re young. They’ve improved every single game this year. They’re very well coached and they have good players.”

New Palestine’s leading passer with 1,227 passing yards on the season is Damon Hockett, a 6-foot, 2-inch, 165-pound senior. Peebles said, “He’s a dual threat guy. He throws and runs the ball well. They run a really solid play scheme. They’re good at keeping teams off balance.

“Isaiah Thacker is a solid wide receiver. Their sophomore running back, Grayson Thomas, is a recruitable guy. They’ve got multiple young linemen that have a lot of Division I interest. Luke Burgess is a 6-foot, 7-inch, 280-pound defensive end. Ian Moore, their sophomore lineman that plays both ways, (stands 6 feet, 5 inches and weighs 295 pounds). They’ve got some guys that are really good football players. This is a big, strong football team that runs the ball really well and passes the ball efficiently. We got our work cut out for us defensively.”

This is a big, strong football team that runs the ball really well and passes the ball efficiently.”

— Head Coach Mr. Bill Peebles '88

The Irish, on the other hand, have hit their stride in the playoffs with blowout victories against Terre Haute North, Plainfield and Decatur Central.

One of the standout players in the Sectional championship game against Decatur Central was senior safety Bryce Llewellyn, who had three interceptions in that game. He was the first Irish player to do so since Mario McCullough, who died in a shooting early last year. Peebles said, “He’s quite the athlete. Bryce played a great game. He was in the right spot, at the right time, in the right situations, just as he was coached up to do. And when you have those opportunities to go up and make a play, and not just knock down the pass, but actually get the interceptions, it was a great game for him. He deserves every bit of being the player of the game for us.”

The Irish defense as a whole has allowed only two scores in their entire playoff run. Peebles is proud of his defense and the way they have played throughout the year. “Our defense did a great job shutting down a really dynamic player in Kaleb Hicks and Jevon Tracy. Those guys are both tremendous athletes. Our defense bottled them up the entire game, beginning to end. Even when we bottled them up a few times in the first half, they were still able to get outside and get six to 10 yards.

“In the second half, we totally shut them down. Other than the last touchdown with the backups in, I’m not sure they had a first down in the second half going into that point. So our guys played great defensively. They shut down the run really well. They allowed our offense to get going.”

The offense for the Irish seemed to be less powerful than usual, with only 38 passing yards the entire game and not executing on third downs. But the offense did go 5-5 in their red zone chances. Peebles said, “Decatur Central did a great job of stopping the run early. They flustered us with their defense. They did a good job of getting in the passing lanes and they forced us to throw it deep to be successful. When we threw deep, we didn’t hit our receivers. Part of our game plan was to just keep plugging at them, play great defense, and go very fast. We were hoping that our game plan would wear them out and in the second half, our hope was answered. Our running game started progressing, the offensive line played well and they carried us in the second half.”

Peebles said his team’s biggest obstacle this week is themselves. “I think we just have to continue to worry about us. Our obstacle is always us. We have to execute and play at a high level with great intensity. The one thing our guys have done consistently is that they’ve played hard all year. They don’t always play great, but they always play hard. We’re going to have to keep that same energy going into this game.”

The Regional championship game kicks off at 7 p.m. on Nov. 12 at Arsenal Tech.