Mater Dei football hopes to build on late-season momentum to start strong in 2021

Published: Aug. 4, 2021 at 11:42 PM CDT
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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - Wednesday marks the first day of school for Mater Dei High School, so football practices are now back to a normal schedule.

The Mater Dei football program had a slow start to the 2020 season, but found a way to dominate late in the year. So, the Wildcats hope to build off that momentum for their 2021 campaign.

Like many other teams this past year, COVID-19 took its toll on the young Wildcats. Following an early taste of defeat, Mater Dei found a way to turn its season around.

“We started off pretty poorly, and then we had a nice run, and most of these guys were part of that,” Mater Dei head coach Mike Goebel said. “So, that gave them a good taste and they hope to pick up from that. But, they realize that each day they have to improve, each week they have to be ready on Friday night.”

Stumbling out of the gate with a 1-4 opening record, the Wildcats clawed their way back up to win eight straight games and advance to Class 2A semi-state.

Heading into his 25th year at the helm, Goebel has built a unit that’s proven to dominate in the face of adversity.

“We’ve got six starters back on each side of the ball, so that’s a good nucleus,” Goebel said. “The player’s enthusiasm has been great, their excitement has been great. They’ve been here and the o-line, they’ve done everything we’ve asked so far. They are geared up, ready to go as far as the season starts.”

For the Wildcats, experienced leadership is critical to this year’s squad.

Mater Dei junior Mason Wunderlich returns at quarterback, coming off a season where he threw for over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns. Wunderlich says his team is looking to build off last season’s momentum.

“We’re trying not to stop from last year,” Wunderlich said. “Keep it going through the summer. keep the same energy, keep working hard and execute. If everybody does their job, I think we’ll end up on top sometimes, but every other team’s got just as much talent as us. So we got to make sure we’re ready for every week.”

The experienced playmaker is joined by a loaded backfield, which includes returning backs, Joey Pierre and Bryce Humphrey. A strong defensive line is also coming back for another go-around, led by Nicholas Boots and James Ralph, who’s earned all-state honors on two separate occasions.

At the wide receiver position, Eli McDurmon has stepped up to the challenge after losing a strong trio from last year’s group.

“Great all-conference player, second-leading receiver last year,” Goebel said. “He’s got the gift, he’s got a good stride, he can catch the ball.”

The pieces are set for the Wildcats, and now it’s up to how they play them.

Mater Dei shoots for their third-consecutive sectional championship, starting with a home game against Central in Week 1.

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