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Irish Advance to Football State Finals

Reigning Class 5-A state champion Indianapolis Cathedral defeated New Albany Friday night, 52-13, at Arsenal Tech’s Howard Longshore Stadium to win its 15th high school football semi-state championship.  The Fighting Irish will now make a state-record 17th finals appearance next Friday at 7:00 pm in a rematch of last season’s championship game against Zionsville.

New Albany recovered Cathedral’s opening onside kick attempt at its own 47-yard line.  On the Bulldogs’ first play from scrimmage, Anthony Kwiatkowski intercepted Derell Simmons’ pass at the Irish 23-yard line.  Danny O’Neil then orchestrated an 8-play drive that ended with an 11-yard scoring pass to Jaron Tibbs.

Gavin Crooke intercepted Simmons three plays later and returned the ball 25 yards for the third Irish defensive touchdown of the season.  Simmons cut Cathedral's lead to 14-7 on a 30-yard scoring pass to Dejon Winburn. The Irish answered with an 11-yard touchdown run by Carson Johnson and a 1-yard quarterback sneak TD by O’Neil to make the score 28-7 late in the first quarter.

In the second period, O’Neil scored on a 2-yard quarterback sneak, Ben Gomez kicked a 23-yard field goal, and O’Neil threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Tazz Garrett.  The latter came with just five seconds remaining in the first half, which made the score 45-7 at the intermission. 

The 38-point margin triggered the Mercy Rule and a running clock for the second half.  The teams traded touchdowns in the third quarter.  Cathedral’s Andrew Dittoe scored on a 1-yard quarterback sneak, while Simmons completed a 30-yard touchdown pass to Daquan High to conclude the scoring. 

Johnson led the Fighting Irish offense with a career-high 232 rushing yards on 23 attempts.  O’Neil completed 11 of 16 passes for 132 yards.  In doing so, the sophomore became just the sixth quarterback in school history to throw for more than 2,500 yards (2,601) in a single season.

Cathedral's defense held the Bulldogs to just 42 rushing yards and intercepted three New Albany passes.  With a successful field goal and seven made extra points, Gomez is the first player in school history to score 100 or more kicking points in a season with 104 so far in 2021.

The Fighting Irish improve their record to 13-1, while the Bulldogs exit the tournament with a 9-4 mark.  Cathedral will face Zionsville, 9-5 on the season, in the Class 5-A football state championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium for the second consecutive season.  The Fighting Irish won the 2020 matchup 46-28.  Cathedral has won seven of eight meetings all-time against the Eagles. 

Author: Scott Uecker   E-Mail:

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