Expectations for Cathedral High School football are lofty. As expected.
But while Irish Head Coach Bill Peebles understands this, and while Peebles said Cathedral football should be strong in 2022, he said something else is also true:
Improvements must be made to meet expectations. And a lot of work must be done.
“The expectations are we have a lot of teaching to do,” Peebles said in August, shortly before the Irish opened the season with a 43-12 victory over Lafayette Jefferson. “We’re shooting them straight and saying, ‘Guys, we’re not very good right now.’ We’re challenging guys and putting them in tough situations. I feel like we’ve got a long way to go.
“We have guys who are great kids, great leaders. We’ll see how they respond.”
The Irish in 2022 will compete in Class 6A. They won the last two Class 5A state titles with their lone loss each season coming to Class 6A state power Center Grove.
New to the Irish in 2022: The entire starting offensive line and nine new defensive starters. While the Irish are talented and explosive at the skill positions, Peebles said there are major concerns in basic areas both offensively and defensively.
“In those two areas, there are a lot of questions,” Peebles said. “Any time your top six offensive linemen graduate and nine of your top defensive players graduate, there are just a lot of unknowns. Do I think we’re a pretty good football team? Yeah.
“But by everybody’s expectations, I’m not sure we’re quite as good as maybe the marquee says right now. We can be pretty good, but we just have a lot of work to do.”
Peebles said the primary areas of focus as the season begins will be secondary and offensive line, where most contributors and starters from last season graduated.
Crucial to the Irish defensively: Defensive end Kendrick Gilbert (6-feet-5, 270 pounds) and defensive lineman Patrick Kendall (6-4, 270), the lone starters returning from last season. Defensive back Kyuss Gargett also returns after contributing extensively last season and starting half of the games last season.
“Everybody else on defense is brand new,” Peebles said. “They’re doing a good job. Coach [Adam] Barth does a great job with our defense, but there are definite question marks. If we can shore up the back end defensively so we’re not giving up big plays, we’ll be a solid defensive team.”
With an experienced, effective offense line key to the Irish’s dominance last season, Peebles said the area will be a major focus as the season approaches. There is talent and potential there that must develop in the coming weeks and months.
“They have to be technicians,” Peebles said. “They have to always be in the right spots. If we can develop the offensive line as we go the year, I think we will be a solid offensive team.”
The reason for the Irish’s expectations. Not just a reputation as a well-coached, always-prepared area power, but also the presence of a talented – and experienced – group of explosive skill players.
“Offensively at the skill positions we’re good,” Peebles said. “We just have to make sure we can open some holes in the running game and protect the quarterback long enough to get the ball out. If we can develop the off
Key to that group:
Junior quarterback Daniel O’Neil who in 15 games last season completed 231 of 357 passes for 2,956 yards and 32 touchdowns with two interceptions.
“He’s running our offense like he’s a seasoned senior,” Peebles said. “If anything, we have to make sure he’s not having to do too much. He wants to do everything and he’s not bad when he does. He’s a kid who wants that responsibility, who wants everything on his shoulders.
“He exceeded my expectations last year. I know how high his expectations are for himself. I didn’t want him to fail. I wanted him to succeed and he did. Now that he’s the guy, we’ll see how he handles that pressure and handles that leadership role.”
Senior wide receiver Jaron Tibbs, who has committed to play for Purdue University, caught 66 passes for 1,135 yards and nine touchdowns as a junior. He caught 10 passes for 255 yards in the Class 5A state title game last season.
“He’s a very, very good football player,” Peebles said.
Senior tight end Brennan Wooten caught 26 passes for 283 yards and four touchdowns last season while senior running back Carson Johnson carried 102 times for 598 yards and three touchdowns.
“We have to stay healthy,” Peebles said. “We’re not deep on the offensive line and I feel like we’ve got a long way to go. If that comes around and we keep everything in front of us in the defensive backfield, I think we can be a very competitive team with anybody.
“The difference between this team and the last couple of years is we didn’t have any superstars the last couple of years, but we didn’t have any holes. This year, we have a couple of superstars but we have some holes. It’s just a little different makeup. We’ll see how well we can patch up the holes.”