By CLIFF BRUNT
You can add toughness to Cathedral receiver Terry McLaurin’s list of game-changing qualities.
The Ohio State commitment, known for his speed and exceptional hands, was a hard-nosed runner against Arsenal Tech. He ran 12 times for 132 yards and helped the Irish defeat the Titans 23-14 on Friday night.
Tech coach Emil Ekiyor said McLaurin cemented his position as the state’s best player.
“What he did tonight, I didn’t think he could do, which is run the ball inside, get tough yards,” Ekiyor said. “He’s a heck of a player. We knew that was the guy we had to stop. He had a heck of a performance against a great defense tonight.”
McLaurin struggled to get open against Tech’s fast secondary, so Cathedral got creative.
“We’re moving him all over the place — quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and he’s just making plays left and right,” Cathedral quarterback Collin Barthel said. “Plays we’ve never even practiced, we just put them in. He just knows how to make plays.”
Barthel completed 14 of 20 passes for 191 yards. He connected with Ball State commitment Zach Saum six times for 105 yards.
Sophomore running back James Gilbert kept the Titans in the game. He finished with 165 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries.
“James has done a heck of a job this year,” Ekiyor said. “I give a lot of credit to him, he’s been patient. He’s had frustrating games. But we have five first-year varsity players on the offensive line. I’m proud of what he did tonight. He just really, really ran hard, got tough yards.”
Tech scored first. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Cathedral changed a fourth-and-long into a fourth-and-1, and Gilbert converted. Gilbert finished the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run to give Tech a 7-0 lead.
McLaurin broke loose for a 57-yard run on the last play of the first quarter, and Barthel finished the drive with a 1-yard plunge. The extra point failed, and Arsenal Tech’s lead was down to 7-6 in the early minutes of the second quarter.
Here is McLaurin’s run:
McLaurin said the blockers did most of the work.
“We have some athletic guards who can pull through,” he said. “We knew we saw something nice up front. Evan Whigham did a good job blocking that corner. I just wanted to make a play getting through that hole.”
Arsenal Tech appeared to increase its lead when Jason Beck took an interception 70 yards for a touchdown. An illegal block nullified the touchdown, and the Titans eventually punted.
Cathedral got it going late in the first half. A 28-yard pass from Barthel to Evan Christopher set up another 1-yard scoring plunge by Barthel. The conversion run failed, but Cathedral took a 12-7 lead with 1:45 left in the second quarter.
McLaurin had 104 yards rushing on six carries at halftime. Gilbert, who had 52 yards rushing in the first quarter, had six in the second.
Arsenal Tech took the lead on its first completed pass of the game. Jordan Cannon caught a 34-yard pass from Deonta Murray to give the Titans a 14-12 lead.
A 49-yard pass from Barthel to Saum set Cathedral up deep in Tech territory, and Barthel eventually scored from the 1-yard line again. Barthel found Saum for the 2-point conversion to make it 20-12.
Mitch Gerbers put Cathedral in full control with a 27-yard field goal with 6:45 to play.
Barthel finished with negative rushing yardage but had the three 1-yard touchdown plunges. Cathedral coach Rick Streiff said Barthel is effective on short yardage, in part, because he’s 6-foot-7.
“He’s a big, tall body,” Streiff said. “He’s a thrower, he’s not a runner, we know that. But when we get down close, we try to go hurry, see if we can catch the defense off guard, and he was able to take advantage of it.”
Streiff was impressed with Tech’s overall improvement.
“They’re a very, very good football team,” he said. “Five, seven, 10 years ago, they weren’t that caliber. Emil’s done an outstanding job with them. You can tell they’re well coached. They’re disciplined. You can tell they’ve got some athletes in the program, but they’ve always had athletes. Now, you can tell that they’re getting coached up.”
Arsenal Tech (4-4) 7 0 7 0 — 14
Indianapolis Cathedral (4-4) 0 12 8 3 — 23
AT — James Gilbert 1 run (Ronnie Hernandez kick)
C — Collin Barthel 1 run (kick failed)
C — Barthel 1 run (run failed)
T — Jordan Cannon 34 pass from Deonta Murray (Hernandez kick)
C — Barthel 1 run (Zach Saum pass from Barthel)
C — Mitch Gerbers 27 FG