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Top-ranked Irish make statement, blank Fulton

“How about them Irish!” The phrase Knoxville Catholic head coach Mark Pemberton exclaims after his unbeaten No. 1-ranked Class 3A team has won each game of the season.

This particular game was supposed to be a close one. That was not the case at Blaine Stadium last Friday, Oct 19. The Irish shutout the No. 3 team in the state, Fulton, 27-0, in a big Region 2-3A match-up on Catholic’s Senior Night.

The 26 KCHS seniors avenged their quarterfinal playoff loss to the eventual Class 3A state champ Falcons in 2006, and it all started with the defense working the line and the offense making plays when opportunities presented themselves.

After a scoreless first quarter, the KCHS offense clicked by scoring three touchdowns in the second quarter. Eric Lindsey connected with Matt Pfleger, who burned a Fulton defender to catch an 86-yard pass for a touchdown and threw a signature stiff arm to add a little déjà vu into the mix to start the scoring series. It was 7-0 with 11:43 left in the second quarter after the Ricardo Martinez extra point.

“I’ve been working hard this whole off season, the whole team has,” Pfleger said. “This game was such a statement to shut Fulton out; it makes it better to win on our Senior Night.” Pfleger ended the night with 30 yards on 8 carries on the ground.

Catholic started hitting on all cylinders.

After the kickoff on the third play of Fulton’s ensuing drive, KCHS senior Michael Robins cherry picked an interception and ran it to Fulton’s 42-yard-line setting up the second score. A 7-yard run from Pfleger raised the bar to 14-0 after the Martinez kick.

“We were really hungry to play them after they shut us out of the playoffs last season,” Robins said. “We put in a new defense for this game, and I just read that quarterback’s eyes and knew where he was going to throw it.”

The exact same thing happened on the next Fulton possession, as Robins went up and came down with a ball setting up another 7-yard Pfleger touchdown and raising the score to 21-0 with 5:54 left in the half.

Though Fulton marched to the KCHS 24, a Jeffery Faris interception kept it 21-0 at the half.

The Irish defense intercepted three passes and held Fulton to 19 rushing yards and 190 pass yards on 15-of-30 attempts. The Irish stronghold also made nine tackles for losses and sacked the quarterback six times.

“Defense did great, we were able to get some turnovers and force some bad throws and we were able to cash in on them for scores,” Pemberton said. Junior Will Coulter led in tackles with 8, including one for a loss and one sack. Junior Jordan Howantiz had seven tackles, one for a loss and one sack.

Senior defensive lineman Jonathan Wood was deep in the mix with a sack and a tackle for a loss himself. “They lost a lot of players last season and the guys they had up there were not as big as we were used to, but that didn’t make it easy,” Wood said. “It’s a great feeling to win on senior night, especially to your rival.”

Late in the third quarter, Lindsey chucked the ball to senior Ryan Walden for a 71-yard score for the final points, 27-0.

Catholic hits the road to face region foe Kingston (6-2 overall, 2-2 region) Friday, Oct. 26, with opening kick-off set for 7:30 p.m.


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