COLUMBUS, Ind. - Cathedral found itself in an unusual position against host Columbus East in Friday's Class 4A semistate. The Irish were trailing. Cathedral had dominated Columbus East in three previous postseason meetings, but it was the Olympians who took the momentum early Friday by striking for the game's first touchdown. It didn't hold though. The seventh-ranked Irish recovered and went on to cruise to a 49-14 win over the previously unbeaten, top-ranked Olympians. Cathedral (9-5) will go for its third straight state championship and fourth in five years when it plays Mishawaka in the Nov. 24 state finals at Lucas Oil Stadium. The unranked Cavemen (11-3) topped Concord 24-21 in Friday's other 4A semistate. "I'm just so proud of this team," said Cathedral quarterback Connor Rice, who completed 11-of-14 passes for 290 yards and two touchdowns and picked up another 64 yards rushing on 10 carries. "The credit goes to the hard work the coaches and our guys have put in this year." Columbus East (13-1) came out with emotion early and grabbed the lead on an impromptu switch at quarterback. Backup Brian Wichman replaced Alex Cowan, who had to leave the field when his helmet popped off. Wichman kept the snap on his lone play under center and broke free for a 79-yard touchdown run midway through the first quarter give the Olympians a 7-0 lead. Columbus East stopped the Irish on their first two drives and looked prime to go ahead two scores, but Cathedral forced a fumble on Columbus East's third possession and defensive back Cooper Riddle returned it 26 yards to even the score at 7 with 3:55 left in the first. The Olympians had a couple more missed opportunities early on, missing a 31-yard field goal at the end of the first quarter that would have given them a 10-7 lead, and failing to capitalize on a Cathedral second-quarter fumble. The Irish didn't miss out on their opportunities, though. Cathedral needed just two plays after the field goal miss to strike, with quarterback Connor Rice finding receiver Terry McLaurin deep for a 76-yard touchdown. The Irish got the ball back with 1:45 left in the half and Rice hit 6-4, 205-pound tight end Zach Saum on back-to-back big plays. First, Saum rumbled 41 yards on a screen pass. On the next play, Rice scrambled and found Saum all alone in the back of the end zone for a 16-yard touchdown. The Irish took a 21-7 lead - and all the momentum - into the half. "We were just kind of thinking about just getting out of the first half (up 14-7) but then Zach Saum made that run," said Irish coach Rick Streiff, who got his 200th career win. "To be able to put points up there was a really big momentum builder for us." Cathedral got the ball to start the third quarter and kept the momentum rolling. The Irish needed just four plays to stretch the lead to 28-7 on Gino Gillum's 5-yard run, which was set up by a 47-yard screen pass from Rice to Gillum. The Irish forced a Columbus East punt and scored again to lead 35-7.It was the second straight year the Irish had a blowout win over the Olympians, winning last year's semistate 62-7. "Had we been able to go into halftime down 14-7, it might have been a different ballgame," said Columbus East coach Bob Gaddis. "I think that first touchdown of the second half really hurt us. It's really tough to bring the kids back up after that."
Cathedral is back in Class 4A state title game
12:00 AM, Nov. 16, 2012 EST
Cathedral High School will shoot for its third straight Class 4A state title next weekend at Lucas Oil Stadium. / Doug McSchooler