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Irish stumble versus Powell

What a difference a year makes.

The Fighting Irish of Knoxville Catholic High School have a new coach, a new offense, a new defense — and unfortunately a new experience.

The Irish sailed through the 2008 season, going 15-0 on its way to the first football state championship in school history.

But on Friday night, Aug. 14, in Neyland Stadium Catholic felt the sting of a loss for the first time in a long time.

Playing only one quarter against the Powell Panthers in the Knoxville Orthopedic Clinic Kick-Off Classic, the Irish, under new head coach Scott Meadows, stumbled out of the gate and could not overcome a series of costly mistakes in a 7-0 loss.

Catholic started out strong.

Aided by a pass interference call on the second play of its opening drive, the Irish moved the ball to the Powell 43 in three plays.

Then the wheels fell off when the first of two fumbles by senior running back Dorian Cozart was recovered by the Panthers at the PHS 33.

Catholic’s defense, led by senior lineman Zak Tait, held its own on the first Powell drive. A third down sack by senior Jake McElligott gave the ball back to the Irish offense on the Catholic 10.

On the first play of the ensuing drive the Irish troubles continued when the Panthers recovered another Catholic fumble, this time at the KCHS 19. Four plays later Powell scored on a 9-yard run.

With more than minutes remaining in the quarter the Irish offense took the ball but still struggled.

A holding penalty gave KCHS a first-and-20 from the Irish 20. Senior quarterback Tyler Williamson was dropped for a one-yard loss on first down. Two incomplete passes later gave the ball to PHS at the Catholic 49.

The poor play was a surprise to Williamson. “We had the best week of practice we’ve had all summer, all year,” he said. “We ought to be embarrassed, I’m embarrassed.”

Take away the fumbles and Williamson feels the new offense was in rhythm. “We came in here knowing we were going to run it straight at them, I felt like things were clicking but the fumbles happened and I think we lost a little confidence,” Williamson said.

After a perfect season and a state title the Irish may have received a very timely wake up call.

Catholic’s first-year head coach was visibly upset. “We know what we’re doing as a coaching staff, players know what they’re doing, but we have got to have 11 out there that are on the same page,” Meadows said. “We’re going to have to understand that people are not going to lay down for us.”

The injury bug has given the Irish another set of problems.

Senior wide-out Spencer Mackle has a broken bone in his right foot but will be ready for Rhea County, the season opener starting at 7:30 p.m., Friday, Aug. 21, at RCHS.

Senior wide-out Jake Faris is questionable with a strained hamstring.

Junior Cody Shirley, a standout running back/linebacker, is out with a strained MCL (right knee) and will miss the opener. His return is questionable the week after.

Linebacker Adam Casey also is questionable for Rhea County with a pinched nerve in his neck.


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