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Irish rally at MHS falls short

The Knoxville Catholic Fighting Irish took its game to Maryville Friday and played well enough to beat the Rebels.

However, two huge turnovers impeded the Irish (5-2, 3-1 District 4-AAA) in its upset bid and resulted in a hard-fought 28-14 loss at Jim Renfro Field.

The Rebels jumped out to an early 7-0 lead with an opening drive that spanned eight plays and 65-yards.

Catholic’s offense responded well — only to fall victim to its first turnover of the night.

On the eighth play of their own opening drive, senior quarterback Mike Wegzyn connected with freshman receiver Vic Wharton on a post route down the middle of the field.

Wharton took it down to the MHS 15-yard line but lost control of the ball fighting for extra yards. Maryville recovered and returned it to the Rebels 35.

A physical Irish defense forced the Rebels to punt after three plays on their next two drives.

“Going into the game we knew we had to be physical,” said future Tennessee Vol Kyler Kerbyson, Irish senior All-state lineman. “We really went after them and did not give up on each play. We just had a few mistakes tonight.”

Offensively, Catholic maintained its physical play and ability to move the ball on its next two possessions.

Taking over at its own 18, the Irish ground game pounded the Rebels. Catholic moved the ball 67 yards on 13 plays to the Rebel 15; running the ball 11 times with 5 different ball carriers, including a key third down scramble for 14-yards by Wegzyn.

“He is a big kid and once he gets going, he’s tough,” KCHS head coach Scott Meadows said of Wegzyn. “He runs well, saw some openings and took them.”

The drive stalled on the 13th play when Maryville recovered the second Catholic fumble of the night at its own 8.

“Turnovers kill everybody,” Wegzyn said. “Maryville is a good team and they take advantage of turnovers when they can.”

While the fumble may have cost the Irish an opportunity to score, Maryville was not able to take advantage.

A sack by Kerbyson was key to forcing the Rebels to punt from their own goal line.

The result was a Catholic first down at the Maryville 45.

Hard running by sophomore Nolan Coulter and a 22-yard reception by junior Zach Thomas set up the Irish with first-and-goal from the Maryville 1.

Senior running back Trey Leake broke free up the middle for a score, and after Gabe Saavedra’s extra point the Irish had tied the game at 7-7.

The score changed again 21 seconds later when a blown coverage resulted in a quick strike for Maryville. Their drive covered 65 yards in only three plays. Maryville led 14-7 at the break.

After Catholic’s opening drive of the second half stalled Maryville took advantage of a 39-yard run by quarterback Patton Robinette which set up the Rebels at the Irish 18.

Three plays later the Irish were down 21-7 when Robinette connected with Stian Romberg in the corner of the end zone.

Catholic again responded.

Taking possession at its own 20, KCHS moved the ball 80 yards in 14 plays, which included another key third down run for 12 yards by Wegzyn, who would finish with 76 rushing yards.

Nolan Coulter continued his strong running on Catholic’s next possession. He rushed for 13 of his game-high 104 yards to set the Irish up at the MHS 5.

Leake took care of the next two plays, scoring from four yards out for his second touchdown of the night, closing the Rebel lead to 21-14.

The Irish then fell victim to the notorious trick plays of Maryville on the first play of the fourth quarter, when a double pass caught the Irish defense over-pursuing.

It lead to a wide open Jacob West and a 28-14 lead.

The Irish offense stalled on its next two possessions and gave the ball back to Maryville with 6:02 left on the clock.

The Rebels controlled the ball and the clock and time ran out when the Rebels converted on a fourth-and-two.

“We know, with the exception of the turnovers, that we played well,” Meadows said. “I think it proves that we can play with anybody when we play the way we are capable of playing.”

Next week the Irish play at West in another District 4-AAA match-up.

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


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