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Irish run, run, run past ACHS

CLINTON — The first real chill of the football season could not cool off the red-hot running game of Knoxville Catholic High School.

Senior running back Jordan Howanitz rushed for 175 yards as the state’s No. 2-ranked Irish compiled 319-yards of total offense, all of it rushing, in its 28-14 win at Anderson County. The win gives the Irish sole possession of first place in Region 2-3A (4-0, 7-0 overall).

Junior Dorian Cozart returned from a high ankle sprain to add a solid one-two punch to the backfield for the Irish. “It’s taken a few weeks to get back on my feet, I’ve been working on getting to 100 percent,” Cozart said.

Talking about the dominating ground game, Cozart, who put up 75 yards himself, shared the credit with multiple people, “The offensive line, you have to give it to them tonight, without them you are not getting anywhere,” he said, adding praise for Howanitz. “Jordan pulled through tonight, he blocked real well for me in addition to having a great game running.”

Howanitz, who has become the go-to man for the Catholic offense, scored three times on runs of 11, 2 and a game-sealing 35-yard touchdown with 5:55 remaining in the game.

The dominating running game was given a huge helping hand by Catholic’s fierce defense.

Down 7-0 with under nine minutes to play in the second quarter, Catholic forced a key turnover. Anderson County quarterback Paul Longmire was hit as he threw by sophomore linebacker Dominic DiGiovanni. The play resulted in an interception by sophomore Michael Bonfini, setting up the Irish offense at the Anderson County 34-yard line.

Four plays later Howanitz tied the game with his first score. On the very next drive for Anderson County, the Irish defense, which limited the Mavericks to 16-yards rushing for the entire game, forced a fumble and recovered it at the Anderson County 44-yard line.

The one-two punch went to work as Cozart and Howanitz alternated carrying the ball, and on the fifth play of the drive Cozart took the corner and gave the lead to KCHS — a lead it would never lose.

After the game Howanitz also gave credit to his offensive line. “Tremendous blocking again, they make it easy. Every one of them made great blocks and created cutback lanes, everything was open,” he said.

The Irish offense would be the beneficiaries of another forced fumble by its defense during Anderson County’s opening drive of the second half. The fumble would eventually lead to Howanitz’s second score of the night, a 2-yard burst off left tackle and a 21-7 lead.

Will Coulter, Irish senior defensive lineman, said of the Catholic defense, “We really stepped up, we did a lot better this week. We gave up too many yards at Baylor last week and we really tried to buckle down and stop the run and we ended up doing a really good job tonight.”

Asked if any changes were made on defense this week, Coulter said, “No, we just stepped up the intensity and several people stepped up their game.”

Two players who seemed to step up were both of Catholic’s linebackers, DiGiovanni and senior Luke Smith. It seemed one or both men hammered any runner who actually made it past the line of scrimmage.

After the game head coach Mark Pemberton talked about his defense. “I thought our front seven did a great job with the run game, they [Anderson County] had run the ball successfully on a lot of folks.

“They are mostly inside the tackles so that told me that our inside linebackers and our front five did a great job defending it,” the coach added.

Referring to the offense, Pemberton said, “We still hadn’t put it all together yet, but we wanted to get our running game going, and we were able to do that tonight. The addition of Dorian Cozart in there gave us another veteran running back that we could go to in addition to Jordan.”

Heading into its bye week, Knoxville Catholic should be plenty rested and will see the return of injured fullback Cody Shirley when it travels to Fulton for a huge region showdown Friday, Oct. 17.

Opening kickoff is 7:30 pm.


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