Irish rip Fulton 44-14

KNOXVILLE — When Fulton eliminated Knoxville Catholic High School from the playoffs in 2016, it hit Joe Fluker particularly hard — and he wanted to make sure it didn’t happen again this season.

Fluker, a senior running back and defensive back, certainly did his part to help the Irish exact a little revenge in a 44-14 victory Friday night, Nov. 10, in the second round of the Class 5A playoffs before a packed house at KCHS’s Blaine Stadium.

“They beat us here and they ended our season,” Fluker said after rushing for 42 yards and a pair of touchdowns. “I got hurt in this game last year and I wanted to make an impact.

“It feels pretty good getting a win like this tonight, and I really knew that we were going to take control when I scored my first touchdown.”

Fluker scored the game’s first touchdown on a one-yard plunge to give the Irish a 6-0 lead with 7 minutes, 33 seconds remaining in the first quarter. Fulton then blocked Paxton Robertson’s extra point attempt in a play that might have swung the momentum in the Falcons’ favor.

But it didn’t.

Fulton [9-3] engineered a long drive on its opening possession, but the Falcons were turned away at the Irish 31-yard line when a pass from Xavier Malone fell incomplete on a fourth-down play.

Catholic [9-3] would go on to score on its next three possessions and take a 16-0 lead by early in the second stanza.

The Irish took a 13-0 lead when senior quarterback Jack Sompayrac [who returned Friday night after suffering a separated shoulder in the regular-season finale8against Lenoir City Oct. 27] lofted a 58-yard strike to Dashon Bussell with three minutes left in the opening frame.

Bussell, who moved to East Tennessee from Indiana during the offseason, would gash the Fulton defense. He obviously wasn’t around when the Irish lost to the Falcons last season, but he knew how much the game meant to his teammates.

“I know that they lost to [the Falcons] last year and I wanted to do whatever I could to make sure that we won the game this year,” said Bussell, who has emerged as both a running and receiving threat and also plays defense for KCHS. “I know that they wanted revenge and we didn’t let up the whole game.”

Bussell scored three touchdowns. He had 125 yards on six carries [including two long scoring scampers] and had two receptions for 73 yards and a receiving TD.

Catholic head coach Steve Matthews said he’s made a conscious effort to expand Bussell’s role in the Irish attack.

“After every game, I leave thinking that we should’ve gotten Dashon the ball more,” Matthews said. “He’s just so electric when he has the ball in his hands.

“The more he’s gotten involved, the better he’s been for us. He’s a special talent and he’s now involved more in the system.”

Catholic took a 16-0 lead on a field goal by Robertson early in the second stanza.

Falcons head coach Robbie Black knew his team would have to make some big plays if it was going to compete against a big and physical Catholic squad.

Fulton got a big play and scored its first touchdown of the game when Dorian Williamson broke loose for a 90-yard TD run with 9:52 left in the first half. The Falcons went for two and converted to make the score 16-8.

But the Irish regained control of the contest when Joshua Brown extended their advantage to 23-8 on a 10-yard run with 4:22 to go before halftime.

Brown rushed for 142 yards on 19 carries and was Catholic’s leading rusher.

Bussell had a 48-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter and added another from 52 yards out early in the final frame.

Fluker had another one-yard run later in the final frame to make the score 44-8 with 9:54 left in the game.

The Falcons would pull to within 44-14 on Williamson’s second TD of the game.

“We went up against a bigger and stronger football team tonight. We came in here hoping like crazy that we could make some big plays with our athleticism,” Black said. “We made a few but we didn’t make enough.

“They whipped us tonight.”

Catholic will travel to Oak Ridge’s Blankenship Field to face the Wildcats in quarterfinal action. Oak Ridge [10-2] beat West 16-6 Friday.