Eventually Streiff had known that this squad, similar to years past, would find their stride as one of the top football programs in the state once again. Of course, he probably didn't expect to be week 12 in the Sectional championship against a 9-2 Roncalli squad, but a 34-7 victory proved that to be the case.
The Fighting Irish have steam-rolled pass the competition since, defeating Mount Vernon 41-7 in Regionals and Columbus East 49-14 last Friday to clinch a spot in Saturday's Class 4A State championship game against Mishawaka (11-3).
It is Cathedral's third year in a row in the State championship, the last two leading to victories, but the Fighting Irish have found a different quarterback at the helm in each game. First Connor Barthel led the team to the championship in 2010, Corey Babb did the same in 2011, and now Senior Connor Rice (26 TD's, 2,54 yards, 10 TD's rushing) is taking the snaps in the big game.
"There is some patience involved," said Streiff about how Rice has been able to perform his one year as a starter.
"I think one of the things that really helps is these kids get a lot of extra practice time over the past few years, because that's four, five, or six weeks of extra practice that has really made them better. Connor has run the scout team the past two years, and he has been able to play against a really good defense. Now that he finally got the chance to run the offense though, he has done a great job for us."
Rice leads an offense that averages 32.6 points per game and has multiple weapons including Junior wide receiver Terry McLaurin (11 TD's, 55.4 YPG), but perhaps none stand out more than 5'8 Senior Gino Gillum (16 TD's, 93.3 YPG).
"A three-year starter that has rushed over over 3,000 yards in his career making him second all-time on the Cathedral list," said Streiff. "He has just been a special, special player. But more importantly, he is just a great leader for us. He is a great example of what we would love all Cathedral football players to be about."
The Fighting Irish defense is allowing 17.3 points per game on the season, and they will have their hands full Saturday with a Mishawaka Cavemen squad that has a deadly rushing attack. Both Seniors quarterback Sam Schrader (26 TD's, 119.9 YPG) and running back Tyler Mcdaniel (11 TD's, 109.4) can hurt anybody with their triple-option offense.
"This quarterback has quite frankly taken that team and put them on his back," said Streiff. "He has carried them through the tournament and the regular season, so that is a guy that we need to know where Schrader is all the time. The other running backs are good and they don't have the biggest offensive line, but they get up and get after you. They are just tough, hard-nosed kids and we need to be ready to play."
The Cavemen have been battle-tested throughout the tournament, defeating South Bend Washington 36-34 in overtime in the Sectionals and winning off a field goal 24-21 over Concord s time expired in the Semi-State championship. Which is why Cathedral knows they need to play a mistake-free game to have a chance to win their third title in a row.
"We have to be able to take care of the football," said Streiff. "We can't give any possessions away because they keep the ball for a very long time. No mental mistakes, no penalties, and pretty much the traditional things you have to do to win a football game. Take care of the football, and then we have to play assignment-football on defense. We have to tackle."
The IHSAA Class 4A State championship kicks off at Lucas Oil Stadium at 3:30 on Saturday, and a live broadcast of the game can be viewed on WTTV-4.