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Defense continues to carry top-ranked Irish to success

CLINTON — For the Irish, defense is the key. The state’s top-ranked Class 3A team, Knoxville Catholic High School logged its third straight shutout against a physical Anderson County team to earn a 35-0 victory Friday, Sept. 29, at Anderson County.

It’s been nearly a month since the Irish (6-0) have last allowed a point; the last score coming in a 30-19 win over Austin-East Sept. 1. After rolling over Livingston Academy 49-0 Sept. 15 and Wartburg 59-0 Sept. 22, the Mavericks looked to be a solid test for the Irish defense.

But a revamped Irish defense was ready for the challenge.

“For the defense this year coach has emphasized getting hyped up,” Catholic senior Joey Natour said. “Every-body runs to the ball and does their job and has a good time.

“Defense is playtime for us.”

With the defense playing lights out from the opening kickoff, it took the Irish offense a few series to get started.

After fumbling on its first possession, the Irish got on the scoreboard the next drive with a Harrison Smith 1-yard run with 1:06 remaining in the first quarter.

“We came out and the offense was a little sloppy,” Natour said. “But we picked it up in the second half.”

Smith ran for 161 yards on 15 carries and also scored on runs of 22, 66 and 4 yards.

Junior Matt Pfleger scored the other Irish touchdown with a 3-yard run in the third quarter.

“We did what we had to to win,” Irish head coach Mark Pemberton said. “We had way too many turnovers (two fumbles lost and one interception) to beat really quality teams, but I was happy with the way we played.”

What may have pleased Pemberton the most was the way his defense stood tough on a 14-play, 10-minute Anderson County drive that started with 6:20 left in the third quarter.

“Defensively we did another good job when we had to,” the coach said. “They put a fifteen-play drive together but didn’t score so that’s a good job when they got down there close.”

In addition to the play of the defense, Pemberton was also pleased with the kicking game.

“I thought Chris Seneker did a great job with his broken arm and Luke Smith hit a big punt to bury them back in the first half.”


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