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Irish blank Dawgs; no playoff

Addressing his team after last week’s win over Heritage, Knoxville Catholic head coach Scott Meadows told his team the playoffs started for them a week early at home against the Bearden Bulldogs.

The young Fighting Irish not only rose to the occasion, they put an exclamation point on their playoff resumé by shutting out their cross-town District 4-AAA rival 20-0 on a cold, rainy night at Blaine Stadium Friday, Oct. 28.

Although the win was not enough for Catholic to make the Class 5A playoffs (4-6, 2-5), “I am so proud of these kids and how hard they worked ... from the opening bell and played as hard as they could,” Meadows said.

The Irish had a stingy defense all night and did not yield a first down to the Bulldogs until late in the second quarter, recording its first shutout of the season.

“Coach [Richie] Whilhite and his defensive staff did a tremendous job this week,” Meadows said. “The players went out and executed the game plan. They attacked the football all night and played much more physical.”

“I couldn’t picture a better way to come off this field in my senior year” linebacker Nick Bonfini said. “To shut them out on defense, it was great.”

In a befitting tribute to Senior Night, two of the eight Irish seniors put Catholic up 7-0 late in the first quarter when quarterback Matt Armstrong hit Clayton Valentine in stride for a 35-yard touchdown pass.

“I threw it up, the ball was a little wet but it got there and we got points,” Armstrong said.

Junior running back Nolan Coulter scored two TDs and rushed for a game-high 125 yards (27 carries), eclipsing the century mark for the eighth time in 2011.

The deep Irish backfield combined for another 142 yards rushing led by junior Cole Lombardo with 66 yards on 11 carries. Senior Patrick Conaty, junior Stuart Smith (41-yard run) and freshman Logan Lacey pitched in to wear down Bearden.

Lead by seniors Matt Mackle, Landon Snapp, Luke Petr, Clayton Valentine, Bonfini and Patrick Conaty the Irish gave up very little ground and forced three fumbles, all recovered by the Irish. Conaty added an interception. “Our seniors have been great leaders on defense all year,” Coulter said.


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