I used to see it with De La Salle High School (Concord, Calif.), although, granted, at a higher level.
During the Spartans’ 151-game winning streak, which ended in 2004, they had a kind of Mike Tyson effect going for them.
Before they went on the field, the opponent was beaten.
Most of it had to do with incredible work ethic, wonderful coaching and tremendous backing from the high school. Part of it was, indeed, a competitive advantage since, being a private school, the best players from all around the area tended to show up at De La Salle’s doorstep. That was not the case for the public schools, which had a defined drawing pool.
But then there also was that psychological edge as well. As the victories mounted, other schools simply felt they were overmatched. Once the playoffs came, schools aimed at the game before they had to play De La Salle as the real championship game. It was an odd situation to say the least.
De La Salle recognized that it was competing against schools that were somewhat handicapped. So the Spartans kept asking to move up to the top levels of state competition and then began facing the best teams from other states to find challenges.
Indianapolis Cathedral certainly hasn’t obtained that status yet. Believe it or not, Cathedral actually has lost five games this season. Count ‘em, five. The Irish lost to Cincinnati Moeller 48-13, Louisville Trinity 24-16, Indianapolis Chatard 21-7, Cincinnati St. Xavier 33-27 and Ben Davis 24-21.
But there is no doubting that Cathedral has some De La Salle, or Mike Tyson, effect going for it as it heads into Friday’s 8 p.m. game at Columbus East High School.
Cathedral has won state championships in three of the past four years and four of the past six. Since the playoffs began, Cathedral has won 62-0, 49-19, 34-7 and 41-7. The Irish beat East in last year’s semi-state 62-7.
East has a big enough challenge trying to match up with Cathedral pound-for-pound on the field. But if the Olympians get mesmerized by the reputation before the opening kickoff, this one could get ugly in a hurry.
Fortunately, I would say that Columbus East has the right mental makeup to not let that happen. Of course, it all starts with a head coach, Bob Gaddis, who is as cool, calm and collected as they come.
Then look at some of the personalities on the team. Start with quarterback Alex Cowan, who probably was beating his dad in checkers by the time he was 4. Cowan has that “it” factor about him. You know. He’s got “it.”
Especially when it comes to winning.
Cowan just doesn’t seem bothered by anything. Tell him he’s too small, and he slips under you. Tell him he can’t throw, and he will connect on a bomb. Tell him he can’t beat you ... well, you get the point.
Then take defensive linemen Dalton Bateman and Brock Patterson. I would say that these guys wouldn’t be intimidated at midnight in the alley by a bunch of guys carrying baseball bats. Just bring it on and they will get in your face.
You can keep going on down the list. The Wichman brothers, Christian and Brian, are always around when there is a big play to be had. And that offensive line, well, your pain is their gain.
We haven’t even talked about that tailback.
Whatever happens Friday, it’s not going to have anything to do with intimidation.
Sure, there’s always room for a private vs. public school football discussion, but for these guys, hold it some other time.
Right now, it’s time to play football.