The first six minutes of the Class 5A semistate game against Cathedral was the downfall of the Terre Haute North Patriots.
North’s bid for its first trip to the state finals came up short Friday in a 42-20 loss on Indianapolis Tech's field despite playing the Fighting Irish even the final 42 minutes of action.
Terre Haute North dug itself the largest deficit it faced all season against Cathedral, falling behind 14-0 in two minutes, and 21-0 in 51⁄2 minutes of action.
But the Patriots were able to build some momentum after the early flurry by the Fighting Irish, scoring 17 unanswered points as Chris Barrett II captained North down the field with his arm.
Barrett II completed 9 of 12 pass attempts for 87 yards and also picked up a first down with his feet.
North had some momentum going into the locker room at halftime, even after Caleb Cross scored his third touchdown of the first half inside the final minute of the second quarter for Cathedral.
“It was a lot better feeling than what it could have been,” Chris Barrett II said. “We thought we could get back in it. We talked about just finishing some more drives. We just weren’t prepared for the running game. Not much we can do about it now.”
North’s strong first half response came after Cathedral scored on its first three offensive possessions.
Cathedral’s power running game was tough to slow down. Cross needed just three carries to surpass 100 yards on the night. The bulky tailback took the second play from scrimmage 54 yards for a touchdown.
North had only been able to run three offensive plays by the time the Irish built their 21-0 lead. North was unable to secure a short squib-style kickoff by the Irish to set up the second score by the Irish.
“When you play Cathedral, with everything they bring to the table, you can’t start like that,” North coach Chris Barrett said. “We had two guys go for the ball and they knocked each other off it [on the kickoff]. Just an unfortunate break.
“Then we give up the big run and they go up 21-0. I was just proud of our guys continuing to play like they have all year regardless of what’s going on. Their last drive [before halftime] was costly, but we knew we had the ball coming out of halftime.”
Cross continued to find holes in the second half, finishing with 250 yards for the Fighting Irish.
“Their offensive line just won that battle, that’s what it came down to,” coach Barrett said. “If we don’t give up those scores early, it’s a different ball game.”
“They came out in a formation we hadn’t really practiced,” North linebacker Wyatt Stoelting said. “We just couldn’t really adjust to it. We got blocked up front and they kept running on us.”
The Patriots finished a school-record season one win from the program’s first appearance in the state finals.
“It sucks that we lost, but I’m not ashamed of this team, my teammates, anybody. We made it really far,” Stoelting said.
Cathedral, winners of three consecutive Class 4A state championships, hasn’t lost a postseason game since a 2009 semistate defeat at the hands of Evansville Reitz. They’ll play for their first Class 5A state title — and 11th state tittle overall — at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The hot start was the key, Cathedral coach Rick Streiff said.
Following a three-and-out by Terre Haute North on the Patriots’ first possession, Cross busted through the middle of the North defense and went 49 yards for a touchdown.
“We couldn’t have scripted a start any better,” Streiff said. “We really weren’t trying to onside kick. What we did the rest of the game was what we were trying to do the rest of the game. The ball just kind of fell into our hands and then we scored. To get up 21-0 was huge for us, as you saw the run that they made.”
The Patriots’ 17 unanswered points started with a 42-yard field goal by Zach Potter.
Ricky Brookins hauled in a 24-yard sideline pass by Barrett II as the key play in a touchdown drive by North that was capped off by a two-yard run by Kai Stratten.
Stratten made the big play on North’s next possession, which came as a result of a big stop by the Patriots’ defense on fourth down near midfield.
Stratten broke a 3rd-and-1 attempt outside the tackles and went 55 yards to the Irish 10-yard line.
Stratten found running room up the middle and scored from seven yards out to make it a 21-17 game with 4:26 before the half.
Cathedral responded with a touchdown drive led by its passing game. Cross finished it off with a six-yard run to take a 28-17 lead into halftime.
Nate Carson finished with nine receptions for 80 yards for the Patriots. He almost had a 10th catch for a first down to prolong a second-half drive, but took a hard hit from Ohio State recruit Terry McLaurin, who the Patriots held to three catches for 43 yards.
Barrett finished with 123 yards passing for North, while Kai Stratten was the leading rusher with 13 rushes for 86 yards.
Terre Haute North finishes its season 11-3.