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Franklin, KCHS defense ‘play great’ as Irish defeat Smith County 23-6

SMITH COUNTY — The defense carved the path and the offense followed suit as Knoxville Catholic High School earned a 23-6 victory at Smith County Friday, Aug. 18, in the season opener for both teams.

Senior defensive end T.J. Franklin got the Irish rolling early with an interception that halted Smith County’s first possession, leading to Catholic’s first touchdown of the year two plays later when junior quarterback Eric Lindsey found junior receiver Mark Kennedy in the corner of the end zone for a 21-yard touchdown.

“Our defense played great until that last score,” KCHS head coach Mark Pemberton said. “They got some big stops when they were threatening a little bit and if you can always play great defense you have a chance, and they kept us in the ball game early.”

Despite the quick score with 9:34 remaining in the first quarter, the Irish offense fizzled on each ensuing possession until a Chris Seneker 29-yard field goal with two seconds left in the second quarter gave Catholic the 10-0 lead going into halftime.

The second half was a whole new ballgame.

After Irish fullback Brian Hartmann (six carries, 39 yards) took the opening handoff for an 8-yard gain, senior Harrison Smith got the Irish back on the scoreboard with a 57-yard scamper on the next play that seemed to awaken a lackadaisical Catholic offense.

“Our running game took over the game in the second half,” Pemberton said. “They did a good job defending us and we struggled in the first half.

“We went to two tight (ends) at halftime because they were slanting on us and we eliminated the slants and it helped our running game.”

The score was just what Catholic needed and nobody will agree more than Smith, who finished the night with 144 yards on 12 carries, most of which came in the second half.

“I was getting a little bit frustrated because I didn’t make any plays in the first half offensively or defensively,” the senior said. “I just had to relax and rely on my team and let the line do what they do best and open up the holes.”

After a fumble recovery by Irish junior linebacker Garrett Trussler, Smith found the end zone again on a 20-yard run, to give Catholic a 23-0 lead with 11:48 remaining in the game.

In addition to Smith and Hartmann, senior Michael Browder added 48 yards on nine carries for an Irish team that tallied 296 yards of total offense.

“I thought our guys up front got better as the game went on, but our defense set the tone for us early and it got us off the snide offensively,” Pemberton said. “I thought it was a total team effort.”

Catholic’s shutout bid ended on Smith County’s following possession when quarterback Matt Harville bullied his way into the end zone from five yards out, but the extra point try failed and that’s how the score remained.


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