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No. 2 Irish bounce No.1 Fulton

For Knoxville Catholic it was all about execution.

In a battle that pitted the state’s top two ranked teams in Class 3A, the No. 2 Irish defeated No. 1 Fulton 27-14 on the road to take sole possession of first-place in Region 2-AAA.

“We executed and had the total thing going in all phases of the game,” Catholic head coach Mark Pemberton said. “I thought we were pretty physical up front with our defense and offense so it was just the fact of executing when we had to make plays.”

Catholic (8-0, 4-0) went to the run early, but didn’t find any luck as they were held to a three-and-out on their first drive by a stout Falcons (7-1, 4-1) defense.

Then they went to the pass. “They were playing man-coverage the whole time,” Pemberton said. “They played man on Harrison [Smith] the whole night so we are going to try to get him the football in that situation.”

The Irish did just that and Smith made them pay. The senior had seven receptions for 169 yards and two touchdowns. He ran for 51 yards on 14 carries and a TD.

“They played a lot of man-to-man coverage and we knew we could take advantage of that,” Smith said. “We were the underdogs like we always are so that was good to get us motivated.”

After a scoreless first quarter, the Irish took a 7-0 lead with 10:49 left in the second on a 26-yard pass from Eric Lindsey to Smith.

Irish junior Michael Robbins recovered a fumble at the Catholic 41. Lindsey completed passes of 24 and 34 yards to Smith to put the Irish first-and-goal at the Fulton 1-yard line. Smith then leaped over the line on the next play for the score to put Catholic up 14-0 with 4:17 left in the half.

Fulton answered on its first possession of the second half with a 9-yard touchdown pass from Jock Stinson to Victor Smith. Fulton running back and University of Tennessee commitment Dennis Rogan ran in the 2-point conversion to close the deficit 14-8 with 4:17 left in the third quarter.

Catholic responded with a 1-yard run from fullback Brian Hartmann to put the Irish up 21-8 with 22 seconds left in the quarter.

Fulton snapped the ball over punter Chase Kennedy’s head leading to a Catholic first-and- goal from the Fulton 6-yard line. On the first play, Lindsey scrambled as a Fulton defender knocked the ball loose and returned it for what appeared to be a touchdown — but game officials ruled it an incomplete pass.

The following play Lindsey connected with Smith for a 12-yard score to make it 27-8 early in the fourth quarter.

A change in the Irish secondary may have contributed to the limited output of the Fulton offense. Lindsey, who led the team in tackles a year ago, started at safety opposite of Smith.

“We have been saving Eric defensively,” Pemberton said. “He was our leading tackler last year so in big ball games you are going to see him in the game. ...”


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