Football prepares to make the jump to Class 6A

Success factor results in potential move for the Irish


Cathedran file photo

Football Head Coach Mr. Bill Peebles has led the Irish to the last two Class 5A State titles.

Nicholas Rodecap, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Cathedral football has become synonymous with success. Hot on the heels of back-to-back Class 5A State finals victories against Zionsville, the Irish have seemingly been unstoppable over the last two seasons. 

And now that the Irish have played and conquered the best of Class 5A, next year they will compete in Class 6A, despite having an enrollment that would actually place them in Class 4A. This is due to the state athletic association’s success factor and its effect on classification.

In a statement from Indiana High School Athletic Association commissioner Mr. Paul Neidig, the governing body announced its planned reclassification cycle for the next two years. Consequently, the tournament success factor would be a key catalyst for change, especially for the Fighting Irish. For the first time since 2016, the two-time defending Class 5A State champions would be part of Class 6A.

About this potential move, Head Coach Mr. Bill Peebles ’88 wrote in an email, “We will do whatever the IHSAA tells us to do. We want to make sure we only worry about controlling the controllables. The only thing we truly can control is how hard we work and how well we prepare each and every week. (Class) 6A is the highest level of competition in Indiana, and we will embrace the challenge.

While it may sound daunting at first glance, the Irish will more than likely be well-prepared for the task. Given that they are not part of any athletic conference, they have not just played against high-level competition, they have thrived: Back-to-back victories at Westfield, a double-digit defeat of the Carmel Greyhounds and utter domination of pretty much anyone who stood in their way.

(Class) 6A is the highest level of competition in Indiana, and we will embrace the challenge.”

— Head Coach Mr. Bill Peebles '88

Twenty-five of their last 27 wins have been by double-digit margins. These haven’t just been against Indiana teams, either: perennially successful programs from Ohio in St. Xavier and La Salle (Cincinnati) have gone a combined 0-3 against the Irish since 2020. 

While it is true that they have been a part of Class 5A since 2017, they haven’t played a 5A-caliber schedule – they have played against the aforementioned 6A powerhouses in Westfield and Carmel, in addition to developing a high-profile rivalry with Center Grove over the last handful of years. In Class 6A, there is a possibility that the Irish could face off against the Trojans in the postseason.

However, the two teams will look considerably different compared to the teams we saw battle it out on the mud-soaked gridiron of Arlington Middle School in what was undoubtedly Indiana’s game of the year in 2021. Center Grove’s star quarterback Tayven Jackson is going south to join the Tennessee Volunteers. Other talented Trojans such as Mitchell Evans and Caden Curry will be headed to NCAA Division I schools. Evans is off to play for the Indiana Hoosiers, and Curry will be a member of the Ohio State Buckeyes. The Trojans had 29 seniors on their 2021 Class 6A State championship-winning team that defeated the Irish 21-6 back in October. 

As for the Irish, the entire starting 11 on defense was composed of seniors, save for Division I talent Kendrick Gilbert and dual-sport athlete Kyuss Gargett, both of whom are members of the Class of 2023.

On the other side of the ball, the entire offensive line was made up of seniors, as was the majority of the receiving core, with the primary exception, of course, being another dual-sport talent in Jaron Tibbs. As for special teams, Ayden Fahey and Eddie Witt will have some Mr. Football-sized shoes to fill: they will take on kicking and punting duties, respectively, as the curtain falls on senior Ben Gomez’s illustrious high school career that saw him break Cathedral’s all-time scoring record.

In total, 38 members of the Class of 2022 were members of the 2021 Fighting Irish football team, so to say that the team fans watch in 2022 will be much different than the previous year’s iteration. 

Assuming the reclassification goes as planned, this would mark the second time in 15 years that Cathedral has been moved up after winning back-to-back State titles. After defeating Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger and South Bend Washington in consecutive Class 4A title games under the leadership of current athletics director Mr. Rick Streiff, the Irish were moved up to 5A. Because Class 6A did not exist until 2013, 5A was the apex of IHSAA football at the time. 

So following the move, what did the Irish do? They won the 5A State title each of the next three years, capping off a five-season run with a decisive victory over LaPorte by a score of 56-7. Not bad. 

If history is any indication, the Irish will be just fine. Saying that the Class of 2022 is talented would be an understatement, but football is a sport where the “next man up” mentality is paramount. Waiting in the wings is a maturing core with Danny O’Neil, Carson Johnson, Hosia Smith, Jaron Tibbs, Brennan Wooten, Kendrick Gilbert, Patrick Kendall and Kyuss Gargett leading the way. High school sports are a revolving door where the only constant is change.

Under the leadership of Peebles, defensive coordinator Mr. Adam Barth and the rest of the coaching staff, the blue and gold appear well-equipped to venture into Class 6A.