INDIANAPOLIS – Something odd might have caught Rick Streiff’s eye in the middle of the first quarter Saturday afternoon.
He’d seen it before, just not in these playoffs.
During the Class 4A State Championship game the Cathedral head coach saw his team allow two consecutive touchdowns to put the Irish down 14-7. It was their first deficit of the playoffs.
These kids have had character all year long,” said Streiff, whose team lost five-of-nine regular season games as they played a rigorous in-and-out of state schedule. “We’ve battled through some games where we’ve had some teams hand it to us.”
In response, like the have all playoffs, the Irish gave back with a steady dose of Terry McLaurin and Gino Gillum.
The pair accounted for six touchdowns in Saturday’s Class 4A championship game against Mishawaka, turning an early deficit into another playoff route. A 56-29 victory gave Cathedral a third consecutive title for the first time in team history with the two offensive forces leading the way.
“Our coaches came out and told us we had to play 60 minutes and we were going to have to play hard,” said McLaurin-and he took that the heart on the opening play.
On the opening play quarterback Conner Rice faked the handoff and went long for McLaurin, who reeled in a 79-yard touchdown to give the Irish a 7-0 lead. It was after that the Irish then got into a struggle with the Cavemen, who took the lead for a moment and were within striking distance for most of the second quarter.
Then McLaurin got it going, taking a handoff from Rice and going through the Mishawaka defense for a 41-yard touchdown to make it 28-14 Cathedral. On the ensuing punt return, McLaurin shifted his way though defenders again and came just inches shy of another score on a 63-yard punt return.
“It was a tough call,” said McLaurin of the near touchdown. “The guys have been playing well for me all year and I just want to do what I can.”
Gillum would take over after that. He scored on the next play to put Cathedral up by 21 heading into halftime. The senior running back would add two more in the second half to keep a feisty Mishawaka team from getting momentum.
His four touchdowns matched his state title game performance in 2011 to go with his 129 rushing yards on 20 carries-though Gillum credited McLaurin for lighting the offense’s fire.
“He was doing that the whole playoffs,” said Gillum of McLaurin, who couldn’t even remember the number of touchdowns he’s had in the playoffs. “He did great.”
So did the Irish one more time in Class 4A, since their success means a move up a class for 2013 thanks to the <runtime:topic id=”ORSPT000540″>IHSAA</runtime:topic>’s new success rule. But in the moment, Cathedral looked back fondly on their first “Three-Peat” in school history.
“We fought together, we fought as a team,” said Rice, using a little extra spark from two in particular to get back to the top.