Lucas Oil Stadium will be tinted green on Friday night.
Irish vs. Shamrocks. A St. Patrick’s Day special the day after Thanksgiving.
Cathedral held up its end of an anticipated showdown with top-ranked Westfield in the Class 5A state championship with a 42-20 win over Terre Haute North on Friday at Tech High School.
“I’m excited for (coach) Jake Gilbert and Westfield and I’m excited for our kids,” Cathedral coach Rick Streiff said. “We’ll have a few shamrocks there between the two schools.”
Fifth-ranked Cathedral (9-5) won its 23rd consecutive playoff game with a relentless offensive performance, as it’s shown all season. Junior Caleb Cross rushed 22 times for 250 yards and four touchdowns, including first quarter TD runs of 54 and 49 yards to help stake the Irish to a 21-0 lead.
Cathedral did not punt all night, getting stopped only when it failed on a fourth down conversion in the first quarter and was intercepted in the second quarter. The Irish rushed for 316 yards total and quarterback Collin Barthel was an efficient 12-for-15 for 140 yards.
“They just won the line of scrimmage,” Terre Haute North coach Chris Barrett said of Cathedral. “There were just too many big holes in there. Their power running game was very impressive and when they establish that they can hit you with play action passes.”
Second-ranked Terre Haute North’s first semistate game in program history started with a punch to the gut.
After the 6-foot, 185-pound Cross ripped off a 54-yard touchdown run on Cathedral’s first drive, the Patriots fumbled the ensuing kickoff. Four plays later, Barthel found Evan Whigham for an 11-yard touchdown pass.
After a Terre Haute North three-and-out, Cross raced 49 yards for another touchdown. Not yet six minutes in, Cathedral led 21-0.
“We’ve kind of had a reputation of having slow starts,” Barthel said. “That was one of our big things we wanted to fix going into the playoffs. That first part of the game speaks volumes because our offense, defense and special teams got it done.”
Terre Haute North (11-3) didn’t slink quietly into the blustery night. The Patriots cut it to 21-3 on a 42-yard field goal from Zach Potter late in the first quarter and got it to 21-10 nearly six minutes later on a 2-yard run by Kai Stratten.
After Austin Massey intercepted Barthel on the following drive, Stratten rumbled 55 yards and scored two plays later to make it 21-17 with 4:26 left in the first half.
“They are a good team and we knew they’d make a run,” Barthel said. “We just had to keep answering back.”
Cathedral did just that right before halftime, in perhaps the game’s pivotal moment. The Irish drove 62 yards in nine plays, going ahead 28-17 on a 6-yard run by Cross with 57 seconds left in the half.
“That was big,” Barrett said. “It turned out to be bigger because we didn’t score when we got the ball to start the second half.”
The Irish defense dug in after halftime, limiting the Patriots to just three points and 65 yards.
“Quite frankly, I was really worried that we’d be able to stop them,” Streiff said. “To give up 20 points against them was actually pretty good.”
Cathedral, the three-time defending Class 4A champion, won its 29th consecutive game on Tech’s field, dating back to a 14-6 loss to Tech in 1980. The fast start was reminiscent of last year’s 34-7 sectional championship win over Roncalli, which was also played at Tech.
“Maybe it’s something about playing here,” Streiff said. “We’ve kind of started games slow all year. But the last two games we’ve gotten out of the blocks really well. Maybe they’re starting to figure it out.”