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Irish rip 4A power Trojans

Knoxville Catholic High School lost the coin toss but got a touchdown in return from junior running back Zach Vann.

Vann returned the season opening kickoff for 92 yards and an Irish touchdown against Morristown West Friday, Aug. 24, at KCHS’s Blaine Stadium,which set the tone for the season and Catholic’s 28-6 win over the non-region 4A powerhouse Trojans.

Vann’s drive behind that kind of performance was rooted back in the off-season.

“My goal was to score on the opening kick-off of the opening game” Vann said.

Vann lived up to the tall order and then some. Adding to his kickoff touchdown, he tacked on two more scores — all in the first quarter. One being from Catholic’s first drive, which was sprung from a fumble recovery by senior stand-out defensive back, Jeff Faris.

Vann drove it in from the one yard-line with 5:28 left in the first quarter, raising the score 14-0 after the Ricardo Martinez extra point. Then on the first play of next possession, Vann side-stepped his way through the middle of the defensive line and scampered down the sideline for a 75-yard touchdown with 3:37 left, making the score 21-0 after the Martinez extra-point.

Vann ended the night with 120 yards on 16 carries, almost half of the combined 263 rushing yards on 63 carries that the Irish produced.

Following Vann on rushing was senior runningback Matt Pfleger with 95 yards on 14 carries, then senior quarterback Eric Lindsey with 27 yards on four carries.

Catholic would not get away without a scare. Morristown West rallied behind its own recovered punt, a couple of Catholic mistakes and a few questionable calls to score its first touchdown.

A 7-yard pass to Patrick Hodge in the end zone with 7:35 left in the second quarter made the score 21-6 after the missed extra point.

Revived by the score, Morristown West junior linebacker Cedric White came out and intercepted Lindsey on the third play of the drive, taking it back to the Irish 29-yard line with 6 minutes left in the first half.

Catholic’s Jeff Faris and the defense would not bend, stopping the Trojan momentum by shutting down the visitors’ passing game the rest of the night.

Two sacks totalling five yards from junior defensive lineman Zak Tait, plus the play of senior linebacker Jacob Giles, junior defensive lineman Will Coulter, and a big 14-yard sack from senior linebacker Anthony Mubarak held Morristown West at bay.

“Defense has to be tough,” said Faris, who led tackles with nine, two of them for a loss. ”We had been studying film all week; we knew the routes and what they were going to run.”

At the half, Irish head coach Mark Pemberton told the team to visualize a new game. “We wipe the score off the board and go out to [play] the second half,” Pemberton said.

The second half for the Irish defense was strewn with forced turnovers and garnished with a blocked punt by KCHS senior defensive back Frank Pickering, and scooped by senior linebacker Joe Dooley for the game’s final points at the 10:30 mark of the third quarter.

The Irish defense ended its night’s work after an interception by Catholic senior DB Michael Robbins in the end zone for a touchback with under a minute left in the game.

Catholic travels to Region 2-3A rival Stone Memorial for its next game, Friday, Aug. 31.

Opening kick-off is 7:30 p.m.


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