Irish and New Albany to battle for semistate title

With a win, football team once again will play for State title

After+their+23-7+win+over+New+Palestine%2C+members+of+the+varsity+football+team+show+off+their+Regional+trophy.+

Ashlynn Bakemeyer

After their 23-7 win over New Palestine, members of the varsity football team show off their Regional trophy.

Will Mayer, Sports Editor

As the football season draws one step closer to a close, the Irish set their sights on first-time Regional winner New Albany for the 5A south bracket Semistate championship game. Kickoff is set for Nov. 18 at 7:30p.m. at Tech.

According to the statistics, the game between the Irish and Bulldogs should be a very high scoring one. On paper, the Irish put up 34.4 points per game while New Albany averages 35.2. Head Coach Mr. Bill Peebles ‘88 shares his thoughts on the upcoming opponent.

“I think New Albany is a senior-loaded team that has a lot of talent. They have some tremendous athletes in their skill positions. And they’re well coached,” Peebles said.

New Albany’s “tremendous athletes” are Derell Simmons, a 6-foot, 1-inch 165-pound senior quarterback. Simmons has thrown for 2,312 yards and 29 passing touchdowns, which is similar to Irish quarterback Danny O’Neil (2,469 passing yards, 28 touchdowns). Peebles said, “Myles Johnson and Kyondre Winford are their running backs. They both start on defense and they rotate on offense. Both are great two-way players. One plays linebacker, the other plays defensive line. Winford is 5 foot, 9 inches (and) 230 (pounds). He’s a big dude and he’s fast. Their receivers are also all lightning fast and they also play defensive back.

“We’ve got a challenge on our hands. This is a team that will pound you running power. They’re going to out-number you at the point of attack and they have guys who can get behind you. We usually try to stack the box against good power teams. It’s going to be hard to do that this week for us because they’ve got guys that can run past you. They run some hurry-up, quick-game offense. Our guys cannot miss the ball carrier or else it will result in a touchdown.”

The Irish offense is coming off a fairly sloppy game in their 23-7 victory over New Palestine for the Regional title. The Irish had two fumbles lost, 84 penalty yards and were 0 of 13 on third down chances. Peebles said, “I think the fumbles have to go. We’ve only had one other fumble this entire season offensively. We had a few on special teams. You’re going to lose games if we let the ball go on the ground. That’s something that has to be fixed. We’ve been pretty good about it. Let’s hope that it was just a fluke. We coach ball control all the time.

“This week, we spent an entire day on third down conversions in the red zone. It’s something that we have to execute. Third down conversions in the red zone are very important. Teams are more likely to blitz you on third down. We need to pick up the blitz, get rid of the ball, and we have to catch it.”

In the New Palestine victory, junior Kendrick Gilbert had an outstanding performance, coming up with two tackles and many pressures on the quarterback. “He’s been great all year. He’s been defensive lineman of the game many times for us. He’s been a dominant force. He plays hard and with a chip on his shoulder. He’s the nicest guy in the world when he steps off the field. He’s not the nicest guy on the field. He plays good football. There’s a reason why he has Power 5 offers,” Peebles said.

The Irish will play New Albany on Nov. 19 at Arsenal Tech at 7:30 p.m. for the IHSAA 5A south bracket Semistate title game. Tickets can be bought at https://gofan.co/app/events/459114?schoolId=IN1133