By Paul Condry and Matt Kopsea
Bill Peebles knows a thing or two about the Indianapolis Cathedral football program.
As a player, the 1988 graduate helped the Irish claim their first (Class 3A) state championship in 1986 and later served as assistant coach and offensive coordinator for 10 years.
Now, in his fourth campaign at the controls, he was responsible for leading his alma mater to the 2020 Class 5A state crown last fall.
Another accomplishment on Peebles’ impressive resume recently took place on September 3 when the top-ranked Irish posted a 37-0 decision over Penn to record the program’s 750th career victory.
Since they started playing in 1919 and earned their first triumph, Indianapolis Cathedral has registered the most wins in Indiana high school football history.
“Football has been an important part of Cathedral’s history for over 100 years,” Peebles said. “Cathedral has transformed itself several times in its 100+-year history. It has changed locations, gone from an all-boys school to co-ed. The Brother of Holy Cross have come, gone, and come back again. The one constant has been football and excellence.”
In addition to picking up 13 state championships in 16 tries, the Irish have also racked up 25 sectional trophies, 19 regional titles, and 14 semistate crowns.
Along with Peebles, other coaches finding their way to the winner’s circle are Mike McGinley (1986), Jim O’Hara (2006), and Rick Streiff (1992. 1996, 1998, 1999, 2008, 2010, 2011. 2012. 2013. 2014).
“My first experience with Cathedral football was in 1966 when I was seven years old,” recalled O’Hara, a 1977 graduate. “I went to a game with my mom and dad. This was a big deal because I was one of 11 children and I was the only one who got to go to the game. Ten years later I was the quarterback of the 1976 state championship game in which we lost 28-24 (to Merrillville). The last play of the game was a completed pass with one foot out of bounds. Cathedral football has shaped my teaching and coaching career. I coached at Cathedral for 19 years and was a part of five state championships. Currently. I hired (assistant coaches) Adam Barth, Tim Barthel, Mike Prior, Darrick Brownlow, and Howie Fogel. I also coached Billy Peebles and had the pleasure of working with Mike McGinley and Rick Streiff. To say the least, Cathedral football has been a part of my life for the last 50 years.”
During his two stints at Cathedral spanning 23 years, Streiff compiled a 221-77 record and has a 242-109 overall mark over 28 seasons.
“Cathedral’s football legacy in the state of Indiana continues as her program reaches the 750 (win) milestone,” said Streiff, who now serves as the school’s athletic director. “It is a testament to her players and coaches over 100 years of playing football.”
Through the years, the program has given its share of players an opportunity to play at the collegiate level with a select number of participants also getting the chance to compete in the National Football League.
One performer who made a name for himself is 2001 graduate Otis Shannon, who is second in the state all-time with 7,560 career rushing yards. His 3,252 yards during the 1999 season ranks as the second-best single season in state history. He also helped the Irish to back-to-back Class 4A state championships in 1998 and 1999 and was named Indiana’s “Mr. Football” in 2000.
“Cathedral High School’s football program has been and remains the premier football program here in Indiana,” said Shannon, who went on to play for Harper Junior College in Palatine, Illinois in 2001 and 2002. “With winning being the by- product of great character building. My brother and I were both blessed to be in that environment and a small piece of its rich winning history. It really is a lifelong bond.”
Another proud graduate is 2001 product Mathias Kiwanuka, who played tight end and linebacker for the Irish. He went on to play defensive end at Boston College and with the New York Giants where he earned two Super Bowl rings (XLII and XLVI).
“As a Cathedral alum, I know what it means to strive for excellence,” Kiwanuka said. “It means doing the little things right day in and day out. It means outworking everyone day after day. The lessons I learned and the relationships I developed during my time at Cathedral have carried with me throughout my life. I will forever be grateful for my time there. I’m proud to be a part of the Cathedral family. Celebrating 750 victories is testament to the hard work that has gone into that program for generations. I’m looking forward to celebrating more milestones.”
The third member of the Class of 2001 who went on to bigger and better things is offensive lineman Jeremy Trueblood. He also played at Boston College and later for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Washington Redskins (Football Team), and Atlanta Falcons.
“Cathedral football instills a moral code and set of values that breeds success across a players lifespan,” said Trueblood, a three-time all-state selection. “Cathedral’s ‘code’ wins games, produces high level collegiate talents, and most importantly, pumps out well-rounded men into society.”
However, Peebles’ classmate Blaine Bishop probably best summed up the legacy of Indianapolis Cathedral football.
“Cathedral football means everything to me,” said Bishop, a 1988 graduate. “I wouldn’t be the man I am today without them. The school’s culture is Family.”
Congratulations Indianapolis Cathedral.