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Gibbs hangs tough, but top-ranked Irish prevail

Not having five key players in the game is tough for any team, but Knoxville Catholic made it look easy last Friday, Nov. 9, in Blaine Stadium.

The Irish hosted the Gibbs Eagles in a first-round 3A bout testing the character and depth of KCHS ending in a 26-17 win for Catholic.

Irish head coach Mark Pemberton was at a loss for starters, his first-string runningbacks Zach Vann and Matt Pfleger were put out of the game early with a concussion for Pfleger and a knee injury for Vann.

Starting defensive back Michael Robins stepped out of the game in the first quarter, suffering from a burst blood vessel in his lung, and senior linebackers Jacob Giles and Garrett Trusler were out due to a shoulder and ankle injury.

“Its tough to scramble around and put guys in positions that their not used to playing,” Pemberton said. “But I was proud of the way our kids performed when they had to.”

Catholic and Gibbs duked it out through a scoreless first quarter trading turnovers and punts until Irish quarterback Erik Lindsey hooked up with Ryan Walden for a 77-yard touchdown pass at the 11:45 mark in the second quarter. It was 7-0 after the Ricardo Martinez extra-point.

Gibbs answered back on the ensuing kickoff with a 12-play, 80-yard drive for the equalizing score 7-7 with 7:27 left in the first half.

On the next possession Lindsey faked a toss on an option play and ran it 92 yards to the end zone only to get it called back by a clip. It did not faze the Irish, however, as they marched the rest of the 97 yards ending in a Dorian Cozart touchdown, making it 14-7 at the half.

The third quarter was full of penalties and turnovers, leaving the second half scoreless until Gibbs kicked a field goal early in the fourth quarter making Catholic’s closest game this season in the second half, 14-10.

“In the playoffs you’re going to have some close games,” Pemberton said, “but we found out that we can pull it out when it gets that close.”

And they did.

Backup runningbacks Cozart and starting cornerback Jeff Faris came through with 358 rushing yards, Faris getting 148 on 17 carries and Cozart 170 on 23 carries.

“It was tough,” Cozart said. “This was the first game I started in, but the offensive line really helped me out.”

Faris picked up a touchdown with 7:13 left in the game making the score 20-10. “I just wanted to help the team win the game,” Faris said. “I just wanted to do anything to help the team, this is playoffs, win or go home.”

The Irish weren’t out of the woods yet; their final scare came as a four-play, 74-yard drive ending in a Gibbs touchdown making the score 20-17 with 5:46 left. Faris struck again after the ensuing 11-play, 77-yard drive making it a two possession 26-17 game with only a minute left.

The Irish defense held out as Gibbs made a last ditch effort to get to get a score with seconds left, but KCHS defensive back Tyler Williamson intercepted a pass to seal the win.

The Irish will host region foe Austin-East in the second round beginning at 7 p.m., Friday, Nov. 16, looking for its second win this season against A-E.


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