Bishop Dwenger entered Friday night's home game with powerhouse Cathedral with as much to prove to itself as it did to outsiders.
This time last week, the Saints were trying to recover from a 39-point thrashing at the hands of Wayne.
With the Fighting Irish looming this week, how would Coach Chris Svarczkopf's team respond?
With sectionals looming so close, not to mention being in the midst of a conference championship race, it was imperative Bishop Dwenger retool and refocus prior to Friday's game.
The Class 4A No. 8 Saints did not win on Friday night, though the game was much closer than the 47-30 final score indicated. But Bishop Dwenger showed the spark and the spunk that needed to be seen not just by the fans in the bleachers, but by the coaches on the sidelines.
The Saints got punched in the gut in the Wayne rout. It started to heal those wounds Friday night.
“We looked at it like a state championship-type game,” Svarczkopf said. “It was Homecoming; it was Homecoming of the 1983 state championship team. We just asked (the players) to look at their jersey number and to think, 'Somebody is up (in the stands) watching me wear their old number. Would they be proud of my effort?' ”
Call The Pig crazy that he is finding so many positives from a 17-point loss, but don't be fooled by Cathedral's 2-4 record entering Friday.
With all due respect to the so-called “experts” who vote in the Associated Press Media poll, the Fighting Irish are far better than the No. 5 ranking they currently hold. This is without a doubt the top team in Class 5A, with losses to 6A studs Ben Davis and Warren Central and nationally-ranked programs Saint Xavier (OH) and Louisville Trinity (KY).
Cathedral sports a wide receiver committed to Ohio State in 6-foot, 190 pound Terry McLaudin and a tight end headed to Ball State in 6-4, 215 pound Zach Saum.
The duo combined for 17 catches on Friday for 365 yards and four touchdowns.
Fighting Irish quarterback Collin Barthel was nearly perfect on the night, throwing for 389 yards on 20-of-25 passing and five scores.
Bishop Dwenger took the biggest haymaker Cathedral could throw at it, and competed for four quarters. The Saints were 15 seconds from taking a lead into halftime before the Fighting Irish scored late to go up 19-15.
Senior quarterback Mike Fiacable threw for 237 yards in the defeat, with Ryan Watercutter amassing 112 receiving yards on six catches.
Meanwhile, Ryan Cinadr added 57 yards on the ground, all of them earned against a stout Cathedral defense.
The pass defense struggled due to being undersized and out of position at times, but the latter is fixable with the comfort that the Saints will not face a wide receiver-tight end duo as potent as McLaudin-Saum for the rest of the season.
A victory over Cathedral would have eclipsed Bishop Dwenger's win over Cincinnati LaSalle just a few weeks ago, but a hard-fought loss can be just as encouraging. A pair of huge matchups loom with Snider and Bishop Luers over the final two weeks. Win out and the SAC bell gets doused in blue and gold paint.
There is such a thing as a “statement game” for a team that loses. The rollercoaster ride for the Saints that was the LaSalle win followed by the Wayne defeat could have gone one of two directions against Cathedral.
Bishop Dwenger, with its effort and heart against one of the best teams in the state, made sure the ride is headed up.
* Congratulations to the New Haven Bulldogs, who clinched at least a share of the NHC championship with a victory over Bellmont combined with Carroll's win over Homestead.
That gives New Haven a two-game lead on East Noble, Homestead and Carroll in the league race.
While the Class 4A No. 3 Bulldogs will face stiff tests against East Noble and Homestead over the next two weeks, having at least a part of the conference crown has to feel good, especially considering it is the program's first-ever NHC title in football.
The pre-season hype surrounded Carroll in the NHC, and for good reason. But New Haven has quietly been the most consistent program week in and week out not just in the conference, but in the area as well.
Big props to Coach Jim Rowland and his Bulldogs.
* Speaking of teams nearing a league title, you can bet there will be plenty of North Side fans rooting for Snider next week when the Panthers take on Bishop Dwenger.
Here is the situation. North Side, Snider and Bishop Dwenger are all atop the conference with 4-1 records. The Saints hold the tiebreaker over North Side thanks to a win over the Redskins, while North Side holds the tiebreaker over Snider. Bishop Dwenger controls its destiny where if it wins out, the Bell goes to the Saints. But, if Snider can knock off Bishop Dwenger next Friday, North Side becomes the de facto leader with South Side and Northrop left on the schedule.
The Redskins have not won an SAC title since 1991 when it shared it with Bishop Dwenger and Wayne. The program's last outright league crown was in 1988.
Openly or secretively, North Side fans will be rooting for their rival Snider next Friday.
* The Pig is going to steer clear of Turtle Town for a week or so to allow Churubusco fans to calm down after the Eagles proved him wrong by beating Culver Academy on Friday night.
It is admittedly so difficult to figure out Churubusco due to the schedule it plays. Not to take anything away from the NECC, but it is not a league really full of powerhouse programs.
We usually have to wait until the postseason to find out just how good the Eagles are, but Friday's victory over a solid Culver team shows Class 2A No. 3 Churubusco may just be a candidate for a deep postseason run.