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Quick pounce helps Irish dump Raiders

Riding a wave of momentum from last week’s Friday/Saturday come-from-behind win over Central, Knoxville Catholic High School jumped out to a big lead over the visiting Cleveland Blue Raiders Friday night, Aug. 26, at Blaine Stadium en route to a 37-21 win.

The Irish (2-0) took its opening kick-off and went 80 yards on seven plays aided by Cleveland (0-2) jumping offsides on fourth down.

The Irish took full advantage. Six plays later, junior Nolan Coulter went off tackle, cut back against the grain and sprinted 23 yards for an Irish touchdown.

Coulter ended with 133 yards and four touchdowns.

The Irish got its second look at a top college prospect in two games, trying its Irish luck against Elite 11 and future Pitt Panther quarterback Chad Voytik.

It did not take long for the Catholic defense to make its presence felt. Pressure from junior Zach Cole forced the senior quarterback into an illegal forward pass. Two plays later, Luke Petr recovered a Voytik fumble at the Blue Raiders 19.

Catholic quarterback Matt Armstrong went about stealing the spotlight from Voytik. He completed a third-and-long pass to freshman Logan Lacey for an 18-yard touchdown strike putting the Irish up 13-0. Kicker Gabe Saavedra missed the extra point, his first miss in 42 tries as the Irish kicker.

“He [Armstrong] did a tremendous job,” Irish head coach Scott Meadows said. “We are putting more stock in him because he is showing more and more maturity and is showing great leadership out there. He is doing fantastic.”

Catholic’s relentless defense kept the heat on Voytik. “That was our game plan,” Cole said. “We wanted to pressure the quarterback.”

Meadows offered high praise to Irish defensive coordinator Richie Whilhite. “Coach Whilhite said he wanted to go after him and that’s what he did,” Meadows said. “Our guys went out and executed his game plan to a tee.”

Anyone wanting to see stellar quarterback play got to see it on the ensuing Irish drive when Armstrong connected with Clayton Valentine for a 49-yard strike setting up a first-and-goal at the Cleveland 7. Coulter scored, making it 19-0.

Voytik connected with receiver Jackson Earl for a 71-yard TD, diminishing the lead to 19-7.

Coulter put an end to another Blue Raiders drive when he picked off a Voytik pass and gave the offense another opportunity with 6:50 remaining in the half.

Catholic moved the ball 88 yards on 10 plays, including a key 39-yard reception by Hayden Varner. The hook-up made Armstrong 4-of-4 passing for 111 yards. He would not attempt another pass all night long.

The drive ended with Coulter’s third touchdown and a 2-point conversion putting the Irish up 27-7 at halftime.

Saavedra kicked a 30-yard field goal in third quarter.

A 75-yard drive on eight running plays was capped off by Coulter’s fourth touchdown, an 8-yard burst off the corner.

“We are very consistent on the offensive line right now,” Meadows said. “These guys have bought in to what we do. They are executing fantastically.”


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