Memorial football finds identity by surviving scare from Mater Dei: 'They’re resilient'

Kyle Sokeland
Evansville Courier & Press
  • Final: Memorial 9, Mater Dei 6

EVANSVILLE — What occurred in the final minute at Enlow Field was telling.

Mater Dei had the ball at its own 22-yard line. No timeouts. One final drive to tie or win the game.

But this season, and certainly on Friday, Class 4A No. 5 Memorial asked its defense to make a play. Alex Broshears went around the edge and found the quarterback. A sack to effectively to determine the outcome.

There’s little question. The Tigers have found their team identity.

More:Week 4 Evansville-area high school football scores

Memorial authored another defensive gem in a 9-6 victory over Mater Dei. The Tigers have won seven straight in this series with three determined by one possession in the past five years.

“They’re resilient and continue to compete,” said Memorial coach John Hurley. “We had a ton of penalties. To overcome that is a big deal. You can get hung up on it and make it your out. I’m proud of the way the kids competed.”

The talk surrounding the Tigers over the summer was their playmakers on offense. That side of the ball had more known quantities. But four weeks into the season, the current strength of this Memorial team is clear.

The 19 points allowed are the program's lowest through the first four games since 1961. The Tigers are tied for second in the state in average defensive points allowed and have accrued seven takeaways in the past three weeks. The back-to-back shutouts against North and Central were the program's first since 1991.

Memorial (4-0) might be outsized some nights. It hasn’t mattered on the scoreboard.

“It’s all discipline,” said Broshears. “It’s all drive and staying with it. Coaches tell us we’re going to be outsized. We’re going to be faster than everybody. Play faster, be strong and physical.”

A young Mater Dei team, still adjusting to the speed of varsity football, had opportunities thanks to their own defense. It just couldn’t move the ball against the Tigers’ front seven.

Memorial’s Simon Schulz (19) is tackled as the Memorial Tigers play the Mater Dei Wildcats at Enlow Field Friday, Sept. 8, 2023.

The Wildcats (1-3) totaled 136 yards with a sizeable chunk coming on a third-quarter drive that ended with a Spencer Turner touchdown run. Memorial forced six punts and a pair of turnovers on downs. Jeremiah McGuire intercepted a first-quarter pass that led to the Tigers’ only touchdown.

“We’ve competed really well,” said McGuire. “It’s a matter of putting in the work at practice. Getting guys up to speed. It’s a team effort. We do it together. I think being 4-0 is going to boost our confidence.”

Hurley still relayed a clear message in the postgame talk: Memorial needs to be better.

The Tigers were called for a dozen penalties that totaled 100 yards. Hurley said it felt like a record at the moment. His offense also struggled to run the ball. A different night might lead to a different outcome.

There’s something to be said for still finding a way. It’s also a learning opportunity.

“They were untimely,” said Hurley. “They’re mental mistakes. That’s indicative of our practices the past few days. For every step forward, we took a penalty that took us 10 steps back. I’m excited to see our guys get back to work.”

Memorial’s Matthew Fisher (2) passes as the Memorial Tigers play the Mater Dei Wildcats at Enlow Field Friday, Sept. 8, 2023.

Some of the offensive woes were also due to injuries. The offensive line went even younger with freshman Jaydon Probst at center. Senior running back Porter Rode also left with an ankle injury.

There was also what happened at quarterback. Matthew Fisher left in the second quarter after taking a hit while diving for a fumble near the sideline. He was checked for arm injury but returned to start the second half. The junior wasn't quite the same but finished with 175 yards and one touchdown.

Any significant injuries could change the outlook on this season.

“There was a little bit of a scare when it happened,” Hurley said of Fisher. “There’s a learning curve. Sometimes you count your losses on a play instead of trying to make too much happen. I can’t fault him. He competes.”

Yet, Memorial is still undefeated. Only four teams in SW Indiana can claim as such. Perhaps this was a wake-up call. A reminder life in the Southern Indiana Athletic Conference is never easy with its parity and depth.

“We can’t get caught up in it,” said Broshears. “If you stop working hard, it will come back to bite you.”

Follow Courier & Press sports reporter Kyle Sokeland on X (formerly Twitter) @kylesokeland.