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No. 2 Irish hit 50 by half while GHS held to -26 yards

The Knoxville Catholic football team has had many “statement” wins so far this year: the thrilling 2-point overtime win in Chattanooga against Baylor, the 8-7 come-from-behind win verses Kingston at home two weeks ago. They were both close games and dominating performances.

Friday night, Nov. 7, at KCHS’s Blaine Stadium, the Irish made another statement, and this time they used an exclamation point. Catholic (11-0, 7-0) put a first-rate beatdown on Gibbs, winning 59-0 in its first round Region 2-3A playoff game.

There were still three minutes left in the first quarter with the score 21-0, when you had to wonder if Gibbs was ever going to be able to stop the Irish. The answer was no — at least not until the third quarter.

Catholic compiled 415 total yards of total offense in the first half scoring every time they had the ball, and once when they didn’t.

Seven touchdowns and one safety in the first half gave the Irish a 50-0 halftime lead.

As well as the Irish offense was playing, the defense looked just as good. Catholic’s defense completely shut down the Eagles. The only time Gibbs did not go three-and-out was when the Irish recovered a fumbled lateral pass on Gibbs’ third possession.

Senior linebacker Luke Smith said after the game, “We came out strong and showed our potential.”

That might be the understatement of the year. The Catholic defense held the Eagles to minus-7 yards of total offense in the first half. It did not get any better for Gibbs after Smith and most of the defensive starters came out of the game. The Eagles could not manage a single positive yard of offense the entire game. They finished with minus-26 total yards.

Some of the younger Irish players saw plenty of action in the second half, and made the most of it, preserving not only the shutout, but maintaining the domination on defense.

Daniel Degennaro, a sophomore, had two interceptions to lead the defense in the second half.

Head coach Mark Pemberton was glad to see such a strong effort from the younger players. “I am proud of those guys, they played hard,” he said. “A lot of times they don’t get a whole lot of playing time, but they got it tonight and produced.”

The story of this game, though, was the production output of the Irish offense in the first half. For the second week in a row, the one-two punch of Catholic’s standout running backs, Dorian Cozart and Jordan Howanitz, each rushed for more than 100 yards.

The difference this game was doing it in the first two quarters. “It was just great blocking up front, there was nothing but daylight,” said Cozart, a junior, whose night ended in the first half with 136 yards rushing.

Howanitz, a senior who finished with 123 yards, was on the sideline in the second half wearing a protective boot and walking with the aid of crutches.

Pemberton was optimistic about Howanitz’s prognosis after the game. “I think he’s alright, he told me that he could have played, we were just being precautious by putting him in that boot,” the coach said. “He said he’ll be ready to go Friday.”

Howanitz and the rest of the Irish had a week to heal and prepare for round two Friday night, Nov. 14, at Blaine Stadium.

Knoxville Catholic will take on Anderson County for the second time in six weeks after the Mavericks won against Carter, 22-21, in its first round game.

Opening kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.


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