Roncalli’s best football season in seven years came to an end Friday night, against the team directly responsible for ending five of the Rebels’ past six seasons.
Class 4A No. 7 Cathedral bolted to a 21-0 first-quarter lead, taking advantage of an onside kick, punt return for a touchdown and four interceptions en route to a 34-7 victory against the third-ranked Rebels in the Class 4A sectional championship game.
An estimated crowd of 7,000 fans watched at Tech High School.
The win catapulted the Fighting Irish (7-5) into Friday’s regional, when they will host No. 4 Mount Vernon (Fortville). Roncalli finished 9-3, and its nine wins were the program’s most since the 2005 squad finished 12-3 and advanced to the Class 4A state championship game.
Things unraveled early for the Rebels. Cathedral scored on its first possession, a 10-play, 56-yard drive that ended with a 10-yard John Hummel touchdown run. The Irish recovered an onside kick on the next possession and scored again four plays later when quarterback Connor Rice ran into the end zone from 15 yards.
After forcing a Roncalli three-and-out, Terry McLaurin returned the Rebels’ punt 43 yards for another touchdown, building Cathedral’s lead to 21-0 with 1:36 still to play in the first quarter.
“(Cathedral) stuffed us on our first possession, went right down and scored, and if something could go wrong after that, it did,” Roncalli coach Bruce Scifres said. “We’re a better team than the score indicated. When you fall behind 21-0, your entire scheme changes.”
Indeed, Roncalli, primarily a running team this season, went to the air after falling behind. Its lone touchdown came exclusively by passing. Cam Smock completed 4 of 7 passes on the drive, which the Rebels marched 80 yards in just 55 seconds. David Holtkamp hauled in a 17-yard pass from Smock as time expired, and Kyle Kedra’s extra point made it 27-7 Cathedral at halftime.
Smock attempted 30 passes, completing 12 for 139 yards. Cathedral’s pass rush and solid downfield coverage also produced six sacks. The Irish rushed for 284 yards and held Roncalli to minus-2 rushing yards.
“We felt like we had some momentum (at halftime),” Scifres said. “We hoped we’d stuff them on their first possession of the second half, put some points on the board and the game would get interesting.”
Instead, Cathedral marched 72 yards on eight plays on the second half’s first drive, capped by Gino Gillum’s 28-yard touchdown reception. Roncalli never came closer than Cathedral’s 28-yard line from there.
The game featured two teams that have combined for 17 state titles and win 10 of the past 16 Class 4A state crowns. Cathedral won its 17th sectional title and its seventh straight sectional crown.
Roncalli, which has won 16 sectional titles, was seeking its first sectional championship since 2005.
“We had a great season,” Scifres said. “The majority of our starters are underclassmen, and our seniors were great leaders and hard workers. We certainly didn’t want the season to end the way it did.”