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Irish losing skid rises to 4

LENOIR CITY — Knoxville Catholic High School went to Lenoir City’s Cecil Thomas Field looking for answers to a three-game losing streak, including last weeks loss to rival Webb.

In a game measured by yards the Irish came up inches short, losing to the Panthers 14-10.

Catholic (2-4, 0-3) has made a habit during the streak of digging deep holes for itself early.

Friday night the Irish responded to a Lenoir City opening drive touchdown the way good teams do, by engineering their own 12-play scoring drive to tie the game at 7 and then stepped up their intensity.

“We were really fired up in the locker room,” KCHS quarterback Matt Armstrong said. “We probably had our best week of practice and did what we are coached to do. We wish we had this one, we really do.”

The drive featured Catholic’s 1-2 punch of running backs Nolan Coulter and Cole Lombardo, both juniors. The combo touched the ball on 11 of the 12 plays and ended when Lombardo pounded his way in from 5-yards out.

The Irish defense played inspired football the rest of the game, forcing a fumble and a punt on the remaining LC drives in the first half.

“We really wanted this all week,” senior safety Patrick Conaty said. “Coach [Scott] Meadows preached intensity all week. We wanted to come after them every chance we could.”

The second half gave the Irish plenty of opportunities, but the young team just could not finish.

Catholic got its first break on the opening drive of the second half when a Nathan Teter punt was fumbled by Lenoir City and the Irish recovered on the LC 22-yard-line.

Two penalties pushed Catholic out of field goal range and the Irish were forced to punt.

The resulting Panthers drive would end when quarterback Jordan Hall snuck in from 1 yard out for a TD and a 14-7 LC lead.

The Irish got another break. After turning the ball over in Panthers territory, senior Landon Snapp stripped the ball on the first play of the LC drive and the Irish once again had possession in Panther territory.

Catholic put together a nine play drive and settled for a Gabe Saavedra field goal from 35 yards.

The Irish defense forced LC to punt the ball on its next two possessions, but Catholic’s offense was unable to come up with scores despite two first-and-goal opportunities on their remaining two drives. The first ended after a Matt Armstrong pass was incomplete on fourth down and the second was even harder to swallow.

Catholic took over at its own 31 with just over three minutes remaining and moved the ball in chunks. Stuart Smith’s 25-yard reception was followed by an Armstrong to Clayton Valentine 30-yard completion and the Irish were now on the LC 14.

Nolan Coulter ran for 10 of his 120 yards on the next play and the Irish were once again first-and-goal, this time from the LC 4.

Catholic was forced into a fourth and goal from the 3 with 24 seconds left. Coulter got 2-and-a-half yards on the fourth down — only six inches short of victory.


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