First things first.
“They’re a great group of kids,” Cathedral High School football coach Bill Peebles recently said of the 2019 Irish.
As Peebles sees it, that’s a solid foundation for his second season leading one of Indiana’s most-tradition-rich high school football programs.
That foundation, along with the group’s talent, has Peebles optimistic entering ’19.
“They’re very easy to coach,” Peebles said, “and we have some pretty good players on the team. Our top-level guys are all college-bound players, all seniors.”
The Irish, who finished ‘18 as Class 5A, Section 13 runners-up with a 6-6 record, indeed will return a strong senior class in ‘19. It’s a class that includes offensive lineman Tex Elliott, wide receiver/defensive back Shiloh Means and linebacker/safety Quinton Cannon.
Peebles said all three are receiving strong interest with offers from multiple Division I schools. Quarterback Orin Edwards also has been offered by Howard University.
Key for the Irish will be how the lines develop to complement those skill players.
“We do have upfront a lot of young kids playing on both sides of the ball,” Peebles said. “Those guys are going to be really good players, but it’s going to take a little time for them to get used to the competition level and some of the things they’ll see on Friday nights at Cathedral High School.”
Irish football annually enters seasons amid high expectations – and facing one of the state’s most-demanding schedules. This season is no different on either front, and Peebles said the senior leaders are ready for that role.
“Those guys have really stepped up – not just as football players, but as leaders, volunteers and leaders in the school,” Peebles said. “Hopefully, that will translate on Friday nights.”
Peebles, who succeeded longtime coach and current Irish athletics director Rick Streiff as the Irish’s head coach before the 2018 season, said the transition from one program to the next is continuing.
“We’re on the way,” Peebles said. “Transitions wherever you are are never super-easy. I do think from the standpoint of the coaching staff the program is in really good shape. We’re going to face some adversity at times. How our season evolves will depend on two big factors: No. 1, how we handle that adversity; and No. 2, how healthy we stay with the schedule we play. If we handle adversity and stay healthy, the sky’s the limit for this team.”
The Irish open the season with three games in Cincinnati - at St. Xavier, at Moeller and at Elder – in the first five weeks. They also play Louisville Trinity and Center Grove in a schedule Peebles called “more brutal than normal.”
“Just the normal teams on are schedule are really good, too,” Peebles said. “There aren’t many breaks in the schedule. We’re going to be playing in some environments that are pretty cool, but they’re not going to be easy to play in.”
Peebles said he expects the Irish to be a fast, attacking team defensively, with the offense expected to be multiple and balanced The key will be the development of the young offensive line.
“If they develop quicker and we can develop a really strong running game early, the sky’s the limit,” Peebles said. “It remains to be seen how that all transpires.”
Also leading the Irish will be senior running back Daylen Hall, the Irish’s second-leading rusher from last season; and junior running back Jake Langdon.
“I’ve been very happy with both of them all summer,” Peebles said.
Junior tight end JP Kocielski will move to the varsity, and Peebles said a wide receiver corps that spent the summer dealing with injuries will include senior Jordan Thomas, junior Camden Jordan and junior David Perry.
“They all have great wheels,” Peebles said. “They can run. They can catch. They can be an explosive group. If those guys are healthy and we’re clicking, those guys can make some plays.”
Peebles said the Irish are deep defensively at linebacker, depth that allowed the Irish to move senior Tommy Wood and junior Jayden Scruggs from linebacker to defensive end. The pair will play a linebacker/end hybrid position with senior defensive tackle Sean Oldham returning healthy. Senior Will Goheen and Cannon also return at linebacker along with senior Danny Brady.
Peebles also said he expects junior cornerback from Mario McCullough to be strong, and he said the group overall has the feel of one with potential.
“I get a great vibe from the kids,” Peebles said. “They’re easy to coach. They like each other. They have together. They fun out there. This is as fun a group as I’ve been around.”