by Mike Beas, Special to IHSAA.org
The last text message Mike Goebel responded to prior to the start of the Class 2A state championship game Friday morning was impressively succinct.
“Give ’em hell coach.”
Former Evansville Mater Dei quarterback Jake Schiff, offensive centerpiece of the program’s lone title in 2000 and the state’s career passing leader, thumbed the words.
His alma mater then took care of business with a 20-10 victory over Andrean inside Lucas Oil Stadium, nearly accomplishing a numerical reversal of last year’s 21-9 loss to the Fighting 59ers on the same stage.
“This team, I compared them to (2000 squad) a little bit,” said Goebel, moments after finishing his 26th season the best way possible. “We didn’t dwell on anything except what we had coming up.”
Mater Dei’s collective focus was, understandably, razor sharp in the days leading up to the rematch with Andrean.
“Obviously, last year we had a great season, but lost our last game,” said senior quarterback Mason Wunderlich, who threw for 124 yards and a pair of touchdowns to his favorite target, both finding the capable hands of senior Ethan Stolz.
“I saw the seniors (last season) and what they felt, and we didn’t want to feel that again.
“We came out this year ready to play, and winning this game is a just a great feeling. We came out with confidence and just played a great game all four quarters. Everybody did a great job.”
Evansville Mater Dei led the entire way, producing points on the game’s opening drive by mixing the run and pass to cover 72 yards in nine plays for a quick 7-0 lead.
On third-and-seven from the Andrean 24, Wunderlich connected with Stolz on a slant pattern. Stolz sped toward the north end zone, carrying defenders with him the final five yards into the end zone at 8:35 of the first quarter.
After spinning its wheels on its first two offensive series, Andrean got things going on its next drive.
The Fighting 59ers marched it as far as the Mater Dei 1-yard line before a penalty pushed them back. On third-and-goal from the 6, three Wildcats defenders converged on running back Drayk Bowen to stuff him for a three-yard loss.
Andrean settled for a 23-yard field goal from sophomore PJ Cusick with 8:07 remaining in the second period.
The Wildcats put themselves in a position to extend the lead late in the quarter after a sliding Spencer Turner intercepted Andrean quarterback Billy Henry at the 59ers’ 33.
A 15-yard pass and a 59ers’ personal foul on the ensuing pass play enabled Mater Dei to get to the 9. It was here Wunderlich found Stolz on a beautifully executed timing pattern in the left front corner of the end zone at :19 for a 14-3 halftime lead.
“It’s called ‘California,’ which is just to come back to the ball,” said Stolz, one of five Wildcats receivers to finish the game with two receptions. “We read each other’s body language so well. I know where he’s going to put the ball, he knows where to put it to put me in the best position.
“We had one like that against Jasper (a 27-7 win in Week 5), but I’d say we run it pretty close to once a game.”
Evansville Mater Dei made it a two-touchdown margin with 4:46 left in the third stanza as sophomore kicker Camden Marx split the uprights on a 47-yard field goal that tied the 2A state championship game standard.
Two plays later, junior Scott Ballentine, now in at quarterback for the Fighting 59ers, was stripped of the football by Wildcats linebacker Mitchell Adler. Senior defensive end Clay Martin pounced on the pigskin, leading to another Mater Dei field goal, this one 21 yards from senior Tyler Sitzman with 2:28 remaining in the third.
Andrean looked to finally chalk up a touchdown, driving down to the Wildcats’ 9. But on fourth-and-2, However, Ballentine was run out of bounds by Evansville Mater Dei junior linebacker Aiden Scheu.
The team did cash in late, however, Ballentine finding junior Jacob Jones for a seven-yard touchdown pass.
Bowen finished with 95 yards rushing on 26 carries to lead all ball carriers. The Wildcats’ top running threat was senior Joey Pierre with 21 attempts for 86 yards.
Adler and Andrean senior linebacker Charlie Koeppen recorded 10 tackles apiece to tie for game-high honors.
Their hearts broken at this time last year by Andrean, the Wildcats’ tears on Friday were of joy.
“I really think it motivated us a lot,” said Stolz of getting to square off against the Fighting 59ers. “We had a chip on our shoulder.”
Class 2A records
Most Field Goals (Tied): 2 by Evansville Mater Dei vs. Andrean, 2022.
Longest Field Goal (Tied): 47 by Cam Marx, Evansville Mater Dei vs. Andrean, 2022.
Evansville Mater Dei’s Joey Pierre earns the Blake Ress Mental Attitude Award
During the awards ceremony, Joey Pierre of Evansville Mater Dei High School was announced by the IHSAA Executive Committee as the recipient of the Blake Ress Mental Attitude Award in Class 2A Football.
The award is annually presented to a senior who is nominated by his principal and coach, and has demonstrated excellence in mental attitude, scholarship, leadership, and athletic ability during his four years of high school.
Pierre is a three-year varsity starter for football, including three time All-Academic, All-City designee. He has over 3,000 career rushing yards to go with 27 touchdowns. Pierre is also involved with wrestling and baseball for the Wildcats.
Pierre excelled in the classroom, as he is ranked 9th in his senior class as well as a member of the National Honor Society.
He is the son of Jim and Lori Pierre of Evansville, IN. He will attend Indiana University and is interested in studying business.
The award is named in honor of Commissioner Emeritus Blake Ress, who served as the IHSAA’s seventh commissioner from 2000-11.
The Indianapolis Colts, the presenting sponsor of the state tournament, presented a $1,000 scholarship to Evansville Mater Dei High School’s general scholarship fund in the name of Joseph Pierre.
Evansville Mater Dei wins Class 2A rematch with Andrean
by Mike Beas, Special to IHSAA.org
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