The St. Patrick Fighting Irish is stop number 21 on News 25’s 25 Teams in 25 Days. But this isn’t quite the same program that went on a 23-game losing streak not too long ago, now coming off its best season in more than a decade.
Offensive tackle/ Defensive end Chris Guthrie said, “I mean for the past couple of years, it’s just been all about changing the culture. We got a new coaching staff in. They’ve been really pushing us hard, getting us working, getting us back to a spot to win. It hasn’t been done here in a long time.” Having opened its doors as recently as 2007, St. Patrick still has a relatively young football program. That being said, the Fighting Irish won almost immediately with an overall record of 7-4 in 2008, starting a run of three straight trips to the post-season. The Irish have won just two district games ever since. Wide receiver/ Defensive back Vincent Pisciotta Jr. said, “It was just more of close friends that showed up to the games and it wasn’t as much of a whole school participation or as much life during pep rallies.”
Wide receiver/ Cornerback Landen Petersen said, “The locker room mentality was not the same as it is now. Back in 7th, 8th and 9th grade I’d sneak in the varsity locker rooms to get a hint of what it was like. And to be honest with you, it wasn’t that great. And so now, we’ve got a different mentality for the Irish.”
St. Patrick really turned a corner in 2019 under the watch of now second-year Head Coach Trey Bailey who says it’s all a numbers game. “16 months ago when I got here, we had 46 kids, 7 through 12. Today, we have 85 kids 7-12. I’ve got 38 varsity. I’ve got 47 in 7th and 8th grade playing.”
Perhaps, most importantly, the Irish enter the 2020 campaign with 12 seniors who were a huge part of last year’s breakthrough. They started the season with a mark of 5-1 already more wins than any other St. Patrick team since 2008. “Oh, it was exhilarating. That was something that’s never happened here before. We had the whole school behind us. It was a great feeling.”
“When I was a freshman, we came out here and got our first win and it finally felt like the streak is finally over. So for us to come in as juniors and getting that win, getting about five games with a new coach, it felt really great.”
“I mean 5-1, that was pretty special. But at the end of the day, you want to win the games in October.”
Once the Irish got to the region 8 class 2A part of the schedule, they were unable to overcome some key injuries, dropping all four of their games after September.
And yet, St. Patrick was still just one win away from its first return trip to the playoffs in the better part of a decade. “Well, it’s something the seniors want, something the kids want. They want an opportunity to play in November. We went into the Collins game November 1st, and that was a big deal just finishing the season in a November regular season game. But it was the first time that they had something to play for that they felt like they could obtain I think in a few years here, and they’re hungry for that.”
Behind the lead of senior quarterback Adam Ritter, St. Patrick also returns its top two rushers, receivers, and defensive tacklers from last year’s team as well as four starters on the offensive line. So, even if Jim Mora doesn’t wanna talk about playoffs, don’t mind the Irish if they do. “We’re working to top last year and set a school record on wins.”
“It’s just a different mindset walking in the locker room. We went 5-5 last season, so we have the ability. We know we can win, so we’re just trying to get that done on the field.”
“Well, we haven’t done that in a long time. I don’t even know how long it’s been. But if we take care of that, I promise you it will be a hell of a ride for St. Patrick.”