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Late first-half score takes away KCHS momentum

A lot can happen in 16 seconds, just ask the Fighting Irish of Knoxville Catholic High School.

Senior running back Dorian Cozart had just put an exclamation point on a momentum-changing drive to put KCHS up 10-7 with 59 seconds left in the first half of the Catholic-Webb game Friday night, Sep. 24, at Webb’s Faust Field.

The drive featured a fumbled punt return by Webb that was recovered by Catholic. It ended with Cozart barreling over a Webb defender at the goal line for the go-ahead touchdown.

The momentum had shifted and it seemed like the Irish were on its way to extending a seven-year winning streak versus the Spartans.

And then Catholic kicked off.

Sixteen seconds later Freshman Aaron Blance returned the kick to the Irish 14-yard line and Parker Wormsley connected with David Wilhoite on a 14-yard TD pass. The tide had turned and the Spartans were on their way to a 21-10 win.

“The kick-off return against us, that really hurt us,” Catholic head coach Scott Meadows said.

The score came with only 43-seconds remaining in the half and the Irish could not answer. In fact Catholic was able to dodge a bullet when Webb recovered a fumble on the next drive, only to fumble the recovery themselves giving the Irish the ball back on its own 12.

The Spartans opened the second half with an 18-play drive that took nearly nine minutes off the clock.

“It [the 18-play drive] wears our defense down physically,” said junior Cody Shirley, adding, “not only does it do that to our defense but our offense is sitting on the bench, and they won’t score points doing that.”

When the Irish offense did get on the field they struggled to sustain a drive. In the first half three Catholic possessions resulted in three plays and a punt.

The bulk of their yards came in big chunks. On Catholic’s second possession Dorian Cozart ripped off 48 of his 133 yards rushing on one play. That drive resulted in a 30-yard field goal by Luke Mishu.

Cozart added 30 more yards rushing on first down from the Irish 12 with 25 seconds remaining in the half.

In the second half, the Irish, who were hit with the flu bug earlier in the week, were hit with an outbreak of the fumbles. Two times the Irish lost the ball in Spartans territory.

The fumbles did not result in Webb points but they took the Irish offense off the field and it kept momentum on the Spartans’ side.

“We had a lot of turnovers,” Cozart said. “That and the kick return, which swung momentum back to them, was big. They had a big crowd out here and those swings kept them in it.”

The Irish defense was playing without its two starting inside linebackers. Junior Dominic DiGiovanni and senior Adam Casey were both injured last week in the win against William Blount.

“I was real proud of the two stepped in and played, Johnathon Pfleger and Reed Bacon, did a tremendous job,” Meadows said.

The two-headed monster known as the Blance brothers (Aaron and Caleb) turned into a three-headed monster with the power running of freshman fullback Bryan Berube.

Senior quarterback and team leader Tyler Williamson gave the Irish some perspective after the game. “This game means a lot, it hurts. This is our biggest rival, but just like after the Farragut game we have to come back and regroup. This isn’t a district game. We’ll be ready next week.”

The Irish look to bounce back in District 4-AAA action, traveling to Lenoir City Friday night, Oct. 2. Opening kickoff is 7:30 p.m.


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