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No. 1 slips past No. 1
1st-ever Irish-Ads battle won by FHS in ‘west’ thriller

Neighborhood “smack talk” might have been evident before the game, but Tennessee’s No. 1-ranked Class 6-A team battling the state’s No. 1-ranked Class 5-A squad came down to a fumble here, a penalty there.

And maybe depth. And definitely DeAndre Purty and the Farragut running game.

Farragut, No. 1 in 6A, saw Knoxville Catholic, No. 1 in 5A, strike quickly before the FHS running game and clutch defensive plays became too much.

As first reported on Farragut First Edition, Sept. 3, the Admirals held on for dear life, 20-12, in these schools’ first-ever varsity football battle, taking place at FHS’s Bill Clabo Field, Thursday.

“We felt like we made plays when we had to,” FHS head coach Eddie Courtney said.

FHS junior linebacker Brooks Harper, who had a huge tackle late while recovering the biggest fumble of the game, said, “We knew we had to come out on defense and take it to them, and I think that’s what we did.”

Ads defenders Gabe White, Thomas Jackson and Jacob Johnson led in tackles with six each.

Down eight points but at the FHS 15 on fourth-and-three with three minutes to play, a Tyler Williamson-to-Spencer Mackle quick slant pass gave the Irish first-and-goal at the 5.

But Mackle fumbled on Harper’s hit, and Harper recovered.

“We just didn’t make the plays when we had to make them,” said KCHS head coach Scott Meadows, whose team also was burned with nine penalties plus a kicking game that missed two short field goals and one extra point.

While saying Farragut’s depth — fewer two-way players — was a factor, Meadows emphasized, “We had our chances.”

Two first down runs by Purty — 169 yards on 20 carries and two touchdowns — sealed the game.

Williamson — who hooked up with Mackle 10 times, one TD, while completing 19-of-23 for 272 yards, — said fatigue “definitely” was a factor because of depth.

“I think they just wore us down.”

Purty said Catholic’s defensive line was “more tired than anybody; some plays they gave up, but some plays they were going really hard.”

Farragut outgained Catholic in total yards — barely — 417-410.

With both teams seeking playoff positioning as members of newly formed District 4-AAA, the Irish came out dominant.

But a 44-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Johnson, a sophomore defensive back.

Michael Bonfini killed a FHS drive with an interception returned 16 yards to the Irish 36.

Two Mackle receptions accounted for 52 of Catholic’s 64-yard, nine-play TD march. Cozart’s 3-yard run made it 6-0 Irish with just 11.1 seconds left in the first quarter. The extra point was wide right.

Farragut answered with a big play from its big running back. Purty’s 65-yard TD run on a third-down draw play came with 11 minutes left in the second quarter.

But Catholic’s passing attack kept connecting. Williamson found tight end Joey Gaston for two receptions, “He caught some big passes,” Meadows said of Gaston. “He’s going to be a special player.”

On second-and-seven at the FHS 35, Williamson’s slip screen to Mackle saw the KCHS senior receiver outrun the FHS secondary down the right sideline. “They’ve done a tremendous job,” Meadows said. “Tyler showed what kind of quarterback he can be.” A 2-point pass failed, but the Irish led 12-7 with 9:24 left in the first half.

The Admirals responded with a 35-yard Browning to Van Dyne reception and eventually reached the KCHS 1, but John Andrew McDermott, Irish senior defensive back, recovered a fumble.

Farragut forced a three-and-out and took over at the Catholic 48. Taino Perez went up the gut for 21 yards, Purty got loose for 16, then Perez raced outside and found the end zone with 2:11 left in the half.

To begin the third quarter, the Ads marching 80 yards to paydirt. Chris Bass runs of 13, 16 and 10 yards — hitting the hole with energy — did the most damage. About Bass, Courtney said the senior “has been patient to wait his time. I’m proud of him tonight.”

Purty scored on the next play, and Christian Ponce’s conversion upped the Ads’ lead to 20-12.
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