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Regular-season travels have Cathedral prepped for shot at 14th state finals

Class 5A No. 5 Irish hope to end No. 2 Columbus East's postseason dreams once again

After a two-year bump to Class 6A due to the IHSAA’s success factor, Cathedral returned to 5A this season, no doubt to the dismay of everyone else in the class. The Irish moved up after five straight state championships.

 

This week, Cathedral (7-5) hosts one of the teams it has victimized the most – Columbus East (12-1). The Irish eliminated the Olympians four times from 2006-12, years East went a combined 50-2 entering the game. The average final spread in those contests: 38 points.

 

This time, East brings a potent attack spearheaded by running back Jamon Hogan (2,204 yards, 33 touchdowns, 10.5 yards per carry) and quarterback Josh Major (2,430 total yards, 31 TDs). As a team, the Olympians have 4,880 rushing yards at 8.2 per carry.

 

“They run extremely hard and get through the line and into the secondary before you have a chance to react,” Cathedral coach Rick Streiff said. “Their line is very impressive and allows them to do those things. How our line stacks up with theirs could be the key to the game.”

 

It’s been a unique season for Cathedral. The Irish typically play a couple games outside of Indiana, but this year, they left the state five times – twice to Ohio and Kentucky, once to Michigan – and hosted a team from the Buckeye State. They went 1-5 in those contests, against some incredibly stiff competition.

 

“Part of it’s people don’t want to play us, but most of it’s that people get into conference play in Week 2 and it’s hard to find open dates here, especially the right size for us to play them,” Streiff said. “We figured out the teams we’ve played are 109-29, and all but one of those (out-of-state) teams is still playing.”

 

Cathedral does most of its offensive damage on the ground, with Notre Dame commit Markese Stepp (928 yards, 17 TDs) and Chon’Dre Cissell (885 yards 5 TDs) leading the way at running back, and Roman Purcell (434 yards, 5 TDs) behind center.

 

Purcell has completed half of his throws for 745 yards and 10 TDs. Indiana State-bound Daijon Collins (19 catches, 396 yards, 6 TD) is the game-breaker on the outside, with 20.8 yards per reception.

 

It all starts up front with 6-4, 322-pound center Emil Ekiyor, who recently committed to Alabama after initially choosing Michigan. Along with an ability to play any position on the line, Ekiyor brings athleticism rarely seen at his size.

 

“He moves so well, so light on his feet,” Streiff said. “We’ll run sprints at the end of practice, and he’s with some of our skill guys. He’s special. It’s been fun to watch him grow.”

 

On defense, opponents have to account for Boston College commit Hugh Davis (17 tackles for loss, 11 sacks), especially off the edge, and fellow linebacker Jackson Barrow, who'll play at Toledo.

 

“They work so well together,” Streiff said. “They eliminate a lot of mistakes made up front, run well and tackle at an exceptional rate.”

 

Including its current four-game winning streak, the Irish are 6-0 against Indiana competition. At Cathedral, the regular season is preparation for November.

 

“Those first nine games are quizzes, they get you ready for the big test, and practice is the homework,” Streiff said. “You might not get all the answers right, but when you get to that big test, you’re ready to do pretty well.”

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