Irish Storm Back to Upset Center Grove
Class 6A third-ranked Cathedral scored 27 unanswered points in the final quarter Friday night to overcome a 16-point deficit and stun second-rated Center Grove with a 40-29 victory. The Trojans had won 35 consecutive games against Indiana teams and had not lost at home since the second week of the 2019 season.
Center Grove received the opening kickoff and was forced to punt after three plays failed to gain a first down. Three plays later, Danny O’Neil completed a 12-yard scoring pass to Jaron Tibbs. The Trojans answered with a 14-play, 80-yard, score tying drive that ended with Jalen Thomeson’s 2-yard touchdown plunge.
O’Neil connected with David Ayers on a 34-yard touchdown pass late in the first period to put the Irish ahead 13-7. Center Grove regained the lead, 14-13, before the half on Tyler Cherry’s 27-yard TD pass to Noah Coy.
The Trojans appeared to take control of the game in the third quarter when Thomeson scored on a 23-yard run and again on a 34-yard punt return, making the score 29-13. However, the Cathedral defense prevented Center Grove from clinching a win with nine minutes remaining, stopping a rush up the middle on fourth and goal from the Irish 1-yard line.
O’Neil led the Irish on a 99-yard drive, which finished with a 23-yard touchdown pass to Tibbs and narrowed the margin to 29-19 with 6:15 remaining. Cathedral’s defense then forced the Trojans to punt from their own goal line. Hosia Smith blocked the punt. Stu Smith scooped up the ball at the 3-yard line and scored to make the score 29-26 with 4:24 left.
Center Grove marched to the Cathedral 32-yard line, forcing the Irish to use their timeouts, before turning the ball over on downs with 1:34 to play. On fourth and ten, O’Neil connected over the middle with Tibbs who carried the ball to the Trojans’ 35-yard line. On the next play, David Ayers caught a TD pass deep in the end zone to give Cathedral a 33-29 lead with 50 seconds remaining.
Center Grove started its final possession at its own 48-yard line. On the next play, Cherry’s pass went through the hands of the intended receiver and was intercepted by Michael Jones. While trying to run out the clock, Brennan Wooten took a push pass around the left end and down the visiting sideline for a 60-yard score to close out the game.
O’Neil completed 25 of 43 passes for a career best 411 yards. His first completion to Tibbs broke the school record for career passing yards. By the end of the game, O’Neil had become the first quarterback in Cathedral history to pass for more than 5,000 career yards. Tibbs caught 11 passes for 164 yards, while Wooten had nine receptions for 153 yards.
Cathedral improved its record to 7-1, while Center Grove fell to 7-2. With the Irish moving up a class to compete in the 6A tournament this season, the two-time reigning 5A and 6A champions could face one another again in the tourney semi-state round next month.
Both teams have a week off before opening the 50th annual Indiana High School Athletic Association football state tournament on Friday, October 28th. Cathedral hosts Lawrence North at Arlington. The Irish defeated the Wildcats in their last meeting, 41-38 in overtime, to begin the 6A tournament in 2016.