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No. 2 Irish crush Livingston 47-7

LIVINGSTON — Outmanned and undersized, it seemed the best chance Livingston Academy had of taking down Knoxville Catholic High School would be if the Irish bus driver got lost on the way to the game.

The Wildcats would have no such luck. The state’s No. 2-ranked Irish showed up and dominated, winning the Region 2-3A game 47-7 Friday, Sept. 19.

Catholic’s defense showed its stingy side early and often, forcing a string of three-and-outs and controlling the game at the line of scrimmage.

On offense, the Irish (5-0, 3-0) did not waste any time.

On the second play of its first drive, Knoxville Catholic junior runningback Andrew Kropilak took a hand-off up the middle, cut left and took off down the sideline for 56 yards and a touchdown to put the Irish up 6-0 with 8:38 remaining in the first quarter. Catholic would never look back.

After another punt, the Wildcats were given their best opportunity of the first half when a third-down pass intended for Spencer Mackle was intercepted and taken back to the Catholic 38-yard line.

The Wildcats’ offense never had a chance. On second down the Irish defense forced a fumble and put the ball once again in the hands of an overpowering offense, not even slowed by penalties.

Kropilak took another second down play 33-yards and into Wildcat territory. Four plays later junior quarterback Tyler Williamson scrambled and threw on the run to Mackle who carried the ball to the Livingston 2 ending the first quarter. Things continued going well for the Irish when Williamson snuck in on the first play of the second quarter, making it 13-0.

Williamson, who ended the night 8-14 passing for 152-yards, was just warming up. “I started off a little slow but found my rhythm in the second quarter,” Williamson said.

With 7:09 remaining in the second quarter the Irish started a drive from its own 19. The first three plays of the drive were all passes, including a 20-yard strike to senior tight end Daniel Hood. On the fifth play, Williamson found senior runningback Eric McWhorter for a 40-yard touchdown reception and a 19-0 lead.

The Catholic defense once again held the Wildcats to three offensive plays before forcing another punt. Senior defensive lineman Wes Reece summed up the solid play by the defense after the game. “Before the game we kept saying we had to come out strong, so we just came out and did our thing,” he said.

Hood gave credit to the coaching staff. “The coaches did a great job getting us ready for this week,” he said. “We came out and didn’t have to think, we went straight with instinct based on what we learned this week.”

After taking back the ball with 3:08 left in the half, Williamson poured it on. On the first play of the drive he kept the option and took it 27 yards to the Livingston 13. Three plays later he found a wide open Nick Branum in the end zone.

The second half started out positively for Catholic. Branum, who also had an interception in addition to his first-half touchdown, took the opening kickoff from his own 19-yard line and was off to the races. Eighty-one yards later Catholic saw its lead increase to 33-0 with Jarrod Julies’ third extra point conversion of the night.

Branum said the return almost didn’t happen. “There was a little confusion at the beginning,” he said. A mis-communication between Branum and sophomore Michael Bonfini allowed for the ball to drop to the ground. “I picked it up and ran at them, got some good blocks and two of their guys missed, and it was wide open after that.”

Two of those younger guys took full advantage of the opportunity.

On the first carry of his varsity career Bonfini took a second down hand-off 55-yards for the sixth score of the night. “The line opened up a big hole and it was easy to run through,” he said.

Sophomore Trey Leake put on the finishing touches, scoring with 3:11 left in the game.

Catholic head coach Mark Pemberton said he was “pleased with the way our kids played, our defense did a really good job with assignment football, we ran the option a bunch in practice and I was really pleased with the way they played.”

Knoxville Catholic didn’t suffer any more serious injuries heading into its brawl at Chattanooga Baylor Friday, Sept. 26. Opening kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.


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