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Fighting Irish Repeat as Football State Champions

Top-rated Indianapolis Cathedral won the 14th high school football tournament state championship in school history Friday night, defeating Zionsville, 34-14, in the Class 5-A title game at Lucas Oil Stadium.  It’s the second consecutive year that the Fighting Irish downed the Eagles in the finals, winning 46-28 in 2020.

Zionsville jumped out to an early lead when Christian Abney connected with Trey Firestone on a 17-yard touchdown pass halfway through the first quarter.  It was the second time this season that Cathedral trailed in a game and the first time the Irish were behind in the first half.  Two-and-a-half minutes later, Danny O’Neil tied the game when he completed a 7-yard scoring pass to Jaron Tibbs.

Seth Mencer’s 7-yard rushing touchdown in the second quarter gave Cathedral a 14-7 advantage at halftime.  Ben Gomez kicked a 27-yard field goal on the first Irish possession of the second half.  Michael Page increased the lead to 24-7 when he took a push pass from O’Neil around the left end and vaulted into the end zone from the 2-yard line. 

Early in the fourth period, Abney found Firestone again, this time for a 30-yard TD pass, which cut the Zionsville deficit to 10 points.  O’Neil answered with a 10-yard scoring pass to Tibbs.  Gomez kicked a 39-yard field goal with two minutes remaining to conclude the scoring.

O’Neil completed 25 of 35 passes for a career high 355 yards.  The sophomore finishes the season with 2,956 yards and 32 touchdowns passing.  Both are the third most for a season in school history. 

Tibbs had a career-high 10 receptions for a career best 225 yards.  The junior finishes the year with 66 receptions for 1,105 yards, becoming only the third player in school history to gain more than 1,000 receiving yards in a season. 

In addition to two field goals, Gomez kicked four extra points against Zionsville to make him the first player in school history to score 200 career kicking points.  The senior also holds school records for made field goals in a season (18) and a career (29), field goals attempted in a season (25) and a career (37), and points scored in a season (114).

The Cathedral defense created two Zionsville turnovers and finished the year with 32 takeaways.  In the tournament, the Irish allowed just 48 points in six games and only one rushing touchdown.

Following the school’s 13th consecutive state championship game victory, Cathedral finishes the season with a 14-1 record, which equals the school record for most wins in a season set by the undefeated 1996 Irish championship team.  Zionsville exits the tournament with a 9-6 record and the school’s third runner-up finish in five finals appearances. 

Under the IHSAA Success Factor, both Cathedral and Zionsville will move up to compete in Class 6-A in next year’s tournament based on their finals appearances in 2020 and 2021..   

   
Author: Scott Uecker   E-Mail: suecker@uindy.edu
 

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