Irish Win Football Battle of #1 vs. #2; Advance to Regional
Class 5-A top-ranked Indianapolis Cathedral won its 25th high school football sectional championship Friday night with a hard fought 31-7 road victory over second-rated Decatur Central. The reigning state champion Fighting Irish will host New Palestine this Friday at Arsenal Tech’s Howard Longshore Stadium in the regional round of the 49th annual IHSAA tournament.
Cathedral took the opening kickoff and drove 80 yards in 11 plays, concluding with quarterback Danny O’Neil’s six-yard touchdown run. The Irish carried the 7-0 lead into halftime. Bryce Llewellyn intercepted Decatur Central quarterback Javon Tracy three times in the first half to keep the Hawks off the board.
After punting on their first possession of the second half, the Fighting Irish scored on four consecutive drives, starting with a 37-yard Ben Gomez field goal midway through the third period. Cathedral’s defense then stopped Decatur on fourth down twice, which led to touchdown runs of 10 yards and 4 yards by Seth Mencer to extend the Irish lead to 24-0 early in the fourth quarter.
Mencer added a 1-yard scoring run with 7:14 remaining. Kaleb Hicks ran 40 yards for the Hawks’ only score in the closing minutes against Cathedral's reserve defenders.
Mencer led the Irish offense with 106 yards rushing on 20 attempts. Cathedral’s defense held Decatur Central, which averaged 303 rushing yards per game entering the contest, to just 105 yards on the ground and 124 yards of total offense. The Irish have now outscored their opponents 141-14 in three tournament games.
Cathedral improves its record to 11-1, while Decatur Central finishes the season 9-2, having lost to the Irish in three consecutive sectional championship games. New Palestine enters the regional with an 8-3 record after defeating Whiteland, 20-17, to win its sectional. The Warriors missed a 30-yard field goal attempt in the closing seconds that would have tied the game.
The regional is a matchup of the last two Class 5-A football state champions. The Dragons defeated the Irish, 35-10, in their last meeting, which came in the 2019 regional as New Pal went on to a second consecutive state title that year.
Cathedral and New Palestine are both Class 4-A schools by enrollment, but are playing up a class due to the IHSAA Success Factor. Since it began in 2013, the two schools have won a combined five of the last eight Class 5-A football state championships. The Irish won the 5-A title in 2013 and 2014 before moving to Class 6A for two seasons, then won another 5-A title in 2020. The Dragons moved up to 5A in 2015, winning championships in 2018 and 2019.