Venue Dilemma

After some debate over location, the Irish football team will play in Semi-state versus Center Grove on November 18th.


Jade Zhao

The Irish will not play their Semi-state game at Arlington Middle School.

Last week, on a freezing cold Nov. 11 night, the Irish football team played in its first Regional since making the move to 6A after its 2021 State Championship win. The team traveled to Brownsburg to face the Bulldogs, a rematch of the Aug. 26 game in which the Irish fell 42-35. It was the team’s only regular season loss, and they came into the Regional game holding a nine game winning streak. 

The team made sure that the streak continued, and after trailing 7-0 at the half, junior quarterback Danny O’Neil brought the offense back to life in the third quarter, connecting with senior wide receiver David Ayers for a 35 yard touchdown. Later in the quarter, senior running back Carson Johnson finalized a second scoring drive with a two yard rushing score. The defense held strong for the rest of the game, and the team came away with a 14-7 win over the Bulldogs.

The Regional win sets up yet another rematch for the team in Semi-state, this time with Center Grove. The Trojans bested Warren Central in their Regional 42-32, setting up another matchup between two teams that have become rivals as of late. The Irish were victorious earlier this year, using a fourth quarter comeback to defeat the Trojans 40-29, but Center Grove leads the all-time series between the two teams 6-5.

The Irish will host the Semi-state game on Nov. 18, but it was announced on Nov. 14 that it would not take place at Arlington Middle School, where the team has played all of its home games this season. Instead, the game will be moved to Arsenal Tech High School, a location that should be familiar to Irish fans and players, as the team played three games there during its playoff run in 2021. 

The team’s only previous playoff game this season was played at Arlington (a 44-35 win over Lawrence North on Oct. 28), which begs the question: Why is this game being played at Tech? Athletic Director Mr. Rick Streiff said the reason is fairly simple. “There is no internet connection in the press box at Arlington, and because the games are televised, they needed internet connection. Tech has that option.” 

Streiff explained that the Lawrence North game at Arlington was not televised, due to it being a Sectional game. Sectional games are not televised, but from Regional on, all games statewide are.

A meeting between Streiff and IHSAA officials to discuss the Arlington venue was scheduled to take place on Nov. 14, but when the officials discovered that Arlington did not possess the ability to televise games, Streiff offered Tech as a possibility, and it was agreed on.

Cathedral has a long history of playing at Arsenal Tech dating back 15 years to when Streiff was the head football coach. He said, “When I was coaching from 2008 on, probably the vast majority of our home games were played at Tech.” For all of the games at Tech, including the upcoming Semi-state game, the field is rented, meaning the school pays Tech in order to use the stadium. 

In addition to its ability to televise games, Tech will provide a few advantages over Arlington, including more space and a turf surface. Tech provides for more standing and sitting room space for what is expected to be a large crowd for a matchup between the #2 Irish and #5 Trojans (according to MaxPreps 11/13 rankings). It also provides an artificial turf surface, which is favorable to grass primarily because it cannot be affected by weather conditions.

Some speculated that the change in venue was due to the well-known unpredictability of Arlington’s grass surface. With snow forecasted on multiple days leading up to the game, an encore of last year’s “Mud Bowl” game against Center Grove at Arlington was seen as a possibility, due to the melting of the snow. 

That game was played on Oct. 15, 2021 and ended with Center Grove players rolling across the muddy Arlington surface after their 21-6 victory. Streiff acknowledged the rumors, saying, “The playing surface does factor into (the decision). Obviously with our game versus Center Grove last year, with it being muddy and all that stuff. I’m sure that there was some concerns. You don’t want to play a high level playoff game on that kind of surface.”

Though Streiff believes that the frozen ground would make Arlington easily playable for the game, the decision was officially announced by the official Cathedral Athletics Twitter account at 12:39 p.m. on Nov. 14. The game will begin on Nov. 18 at 7 p.m. and can be watched on WHMB or via the CG Sports Network. Fox Sports Radio 1260-AM WNDE will be broadcasting live for the Irish as well.