After an impressive second half which saw them erase a 16-7 halftime deficit to win 27-16, the Mater Dei Wildcats football team is heading back to the Class 2A state title game for the first time since 2001.

This will be the 4th trip to the state championship in the history of the school's football program which dates back to the 1940's. Their first trip took place during my senior year at Mater Dei in 1994. I was on the sidelines for that game, granted I was in the school's mascot costume, but I was on the sidelines nonetheless. I will also be at this weekend's game, not in the mascot suit, but in the pressbox as color commentator for coverage of the game on our sister-station, Newstalk 1280.

The road to Lucas Oil nearly hit a road block for the Wildcats this past Saturday as the Wildcats took on an extremely talented and tough Guerin Catholic Golden Eagles team from Noblesville in the Class 2A semistate game at the Reitz Bowl.

On paper, the Golden Eagles mirrored Mater Dei in nearly every category. They were same size, had the same quickness, and were always a threat to either run the ball or go deep with the passing game. The first half not only proved that, but also showed that the Wildcats were going to need to dig deep in order win the game.

In only their 6th season in existence, the Golden Eagles, just like Mater Dei, were playing in their second consecutive semistate game having come up short last year in a 31-15 loss to Fountain Central. Mater Dei also came up one game short of a trip to Lucas Oil last year, losing to North Putnam 6-0. It was clear from the start that Guerin Catholic came into Saturday's game with a chip on their shoulder and a point to prove.

At the risk of sounding cliche, the Golden Eagles came out firing on all cylinders and Mater Dei struggled to stop the onslaught in the first half. Fortunately, the Wildcats were able to do enough to keep things from getting out of hand and went into the locker room at halftime down 16-7.

I have no idea what was said at halftime by the Mater Dei coaching staff, but whatever it was worked and worked well. The Wildcats came out in the second half led by their senior class and completely turned the tables on Guerin Catholic. They caused turnovers, they stopped the run, they shut down the pass, and most importantly, their offense put points on the board. They did everything a championship caliber team is expected to do when their backs are against the wall. It was almost as if the teams got together in the locker room and agreed to switch roles for the second half with Mater Dei handing the Golden Eagles a dose of their own medicine (there's one of those cliches again) to come from behind and win 27-16.

The road doesn't get any easier for Mater Dei in the state title game on Friday night as they take on perennial state contender Fort Wayne Bishop Luers. A team they have faced in their previous two trips to Lucas Oil Stadium with Mater Dei winning the first matchup in 2000 and Bishop Luers taking the second game in 2001. The game kicks off at 6pm Friday evening Evansville time with tickets available at the Mater Dei Athletic Office during school hours.

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