It’s the nature of the state championship tournament beast that a team’s shining moment often turns into its worst agony.
That was the case as the Cathedral juggernaut rolled over host Columbus East 49-14 on Friday night.
I’m sure everyone from this area wanted more.
Although the stadium wasn’t quite to capacity, it was close. The East fans certainly did their share, packing their side of the field until there was standing room only. There was no chance they were going to get cold on a 40s-something night.
The fans were loud and rowdy and fun. That guy with the cowbells should have gotten a medal for ringing until the cows indeed came home. It was a perfect setting to honor a group of kids who have gone above and beyond when it comes to work and dedication.
Which goes back to the tournament beast, which in this case was two-time defending state champion Cathedral.
This should have been a moment of glory for a terrific Columbus East squad, which compiled a 13-0 record and ascended to the No. 1 ranking. Columbus East coach Bob Gaddis and his staff took players from our neighborhood and honed them into a fine-tuned machine.
I also would argue that East was well-prepared for its semi-state opponent. Other than two mistakes in the first half (both which resulted in Irish touchdowns), I don’t know that the Olympians could have played better football. They still trailed 21-7 at intermission.
None of their fine play seemed to matter against a private school that always has been the No. 1 4A team in Indiana despite what the rankings might say. In this tournament format, sooner or later, East was going to collide with the Irish, who simply have a different makeup.
Cathedral compiles, yes they are a private school so they can compile great skill players. Anyone who touched the ball for the Irish on Friday night was a threat to score.
That’s not the case for East, or for most public high schools in the state of East’s size.
This, of course, is not the time to make a rant against Cathedral, which should get a tip of the hat for having a wonderful program. It’s just too bad that East’s season had to end this way.
That’s the state tournament format. Everyone in the state goes home with a thud, except one team. It’s the American way.
I doubt that the fans who walked away from that field on Friday understood that East gave absolutely all it had. Coaches often talk about big games being decided by mistakes. In reality, they are decided by great players.
Player for player, the Olympians were no match.
But, then, let’s think of that statement. If those two teams played 90 snaps, the Olympians would have come out even or ahead on 80 of them. But those other 10 plays ... yikes.
A perfect example came on the first play of the second quarter. Irish wide receiver Terry McLaurin took a swing pass at the line of scrimmage, and before you knew it, he was 76 yards down the field in the end zone. East has those kind of players, too, as Brian Wichman showed with 79-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. It’s just that Cathedral has 10 guys who can do it.
So this Columbus East squad goes into the night having to deal with getting ripped at the end. It’s a young squad which has every chance to be better next season. Plus, Cathedral will be forced to move up to 5A next season, so that’s a hurdle that’s won’t be around.
I guess the one thing that should be said about Friday’s game, something I hope the Olympians realize a bit down the road, is that they didn’t earn a victory on Friday night.
But they did earn respect.
Jay Heater is The Republic sports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or 379-5632.