Head coach reflects on team’s State title

“With Her Leading” became focus for championship run


Photo submitted

After their 34-14 win over Zionsville, members of the varsity football team show off the Class 5A State championship trophy.

Will Mayer, Sports Editor

Now that it’s been a few weeks since the varsity football team defeated Zionsville 34-14 for the Class 5A State championship, Head Coach Mr. Bill Peebles has had the chance to review the season and to think about next year. 

His team finished 33rd in the MaxPreps national ranking and is 27-2 over the last two seasons. 

Peebles said one of the biggest things he learned was being more patient as a coach and taking his chances with the special teams and defense. “This year has allowed me to be more patient as a head coach and an offensive play-caller because our defense and kicking game were so good. It’s harder to repeat. Climbing the hill and getting to the big game is (exciting), and (doing) it a second time was hard. It’s a grind. There’s a lot of pressure to it, and I learned that we have a great group of kids who understand how to work, how to stick together, and how to handle adversity,” the coach said. 

Winning a State championship is nothing new for the Irish, but repeating is a whole different ball game. The school’s motto, “Ipsa Duce Non Fatigris,” which means “With Her Leading, We Shall Not Tire,” has helped this team limit distractions and focus on going back to back. 

With Her Leading…

Peebles said, “I think ‘With Her Leading, We Shall Not Tire’ we had an ultimate goal in mind. That goal was to repeat as State champions. We knew how to get to the end and what it felt like to get there, and we knew what we wanted the end of the journey to look like, which was a State championship win. When we started training in February doing speed school and our football throwdowns in March and April, that (win) was a really long way away. 

“‘With Her Leading’ allowed us to visualize that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. We just had to keep following our Mother and our own expectations without coming off the path and worrying about other things like college recruiting and all the other distractions that (could) hit us during a season. I think the motto kept us focused on the light at the end of the tunnel. We never got off track even though we had plenty of distractions that could’ve possibly led to getting us off track.”

One thing that may distract others, but will not distract the team next season, is that the Irish lose their seniors every year. The seniors this year, in particular, were the first group of freshmen to come in and play for Peebles in his first year as head coach for the Irish. 

Peebles said that it was a lot of fun to watch these players develop throughout their high school careers. “It’s what I coach for. Watching kids come in at 14 years old, building a relationship with them and seeing them leave this place as adults is what I coach for. Not every program has that, where you get to see kids transform into true leaders on the football field. Watching this group of kids in the classroom, on the field, in the hallways, and in the community allows me to know that these leaders are going to be very successful at the next level if they’re playing football or even if they’re not. This is a very successful group of young men in every aspect. It’s not what you get from Cathedral football. It’s what you become,” Peebles said. 

Two of the most impressive performances all year were by underclassmen in sophomore quarterback Danny O’Neil and junior wide receiver junior Jaron Tibbs. 

Tibbs had 1,105 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns on the season. Two hundred yards and two of those touchdowns came from the State game alone. Peebles said, “He’s been our leading receiver throughout the year. We’ve had games where we’ve had to (rely on the run heavily.) We relied on the run against New Albany. But going into the State championship game, we knew that we were going to have to put the ball in the air a bit more than we had been doing all postseason. 

“We knew that we were going to get the ball to the perimeter because they were going to stack the box depending on our formations. That would allow us to get the ball one on one to the outside, where we felt like we had an advantage. Really all of our receivers, from (senior) Daniel Hughes to our tight ends, to (senior) Michael Page and (senior) Tazz Garrett, they all touched the ball throughout the game. We spread it out, and a lot of people were heavily involved in moving the chains and scoring. But Tibbs was our Number-1 target.”

O’Neil had a stellar season, throwing for 2,956 yards and 33 touchdowns. “Obviously, he’s very talented. He has a great arm, and he’s a good athlete. He has a very high football IQ for someone who’s 15 years old. You don’t go through an entire season, with the competition we’ve played, throwing 33 touchdowns and only two interceptions, unless you are getting the ball to the right people and keeping it safe and out of danger, which O’Neil did a great job of all year,” Peebles said. 

Defense was fierce

One of the most impressive groups on the team this year, if not the most impressive, was the Irish defense. Peebles said, “If you just look at the numbers, you have to go back into the ’60s to look for a defense that held all their opponents to a lesser point total. That was also an entirely different game of football back then when nobody threw the ball, and the offenses weren’t as dynamic. 

“The team was also not playing as much of a regional schedule as we are today. We averaged seven points allowed per game. We didn’t give up a single point in the first quarter until the second round of Sectional, which is an unbelievable stat. We had nine seniors starting on defense who could all play. We had great players, and Coach (Mr. Adam) Barth, who was recently named Indiana Assistant Coach of the Year by the (Indiana Football Coaches Association), had a combination of great players and great coaching. Those guys came through and were absolutely outstanding all year.” 

Peebles also ensured the scout team’s work this year did not go unnoticed. Peebles said, “They’re the Number-1 reason we won State. The scout team defense watches film with the varsity offense. They know the techniques that each defense uses, where they align, how they line up in certain situations. There were some weeks where our scout teams were playing better than the team we were going up against. It was harder to move the ball against the scout team than some other varsity teams we played this year. 

“Most of our scout team guys are younger, and it’s going to make them better football players because they learn all the different defenses and offenses we face. They get to learn so much football by running different offenses every week. It really helps them and their football IQ going forward.” 

Peebles also wanted to appreciate the students for their hard work all year. “We couldn’t have won without them. That’s for sure. It was a fun season with the best student section in the state behind us. The State championship game was fun. Both teams had big crowds. We felt like we were in a big-time environment, just like we had been in all year. The students came out to support us. I think it’s important for the guys to feel supported, and I hope the students continue to support the teams in all sports here because it does make a difference.”