One win from Cookeville

Irish hold off Oak Ridge in Q-finals

OAK RIDGE — Injured in the regular-season finale versus Lenoir City, Jack Sompayrac wasn’t sure if he was going to lead Knoxville Catholic during its run in the Class 5A football playoffs.

He missed the opening round of the postseason before returning for the second round.

But Friday night, Nov. 17, Sompayrac, KCHS’s senior quarterback, was a big reason why the Irish prevailed in a 37-28 state quarterfinal win versus Oak Ridge at Blankenship Field.

“I did everything I could to get back,” said Sompayrac, who completed 14-of-21 pass attempts for 178 yards and was Catholic’s leading rusher against the Wildcats, toting the ball 11 times for 63 yards.

The Irish move on to face Knoxville Central, on the road, in the state semifinals starting at 7 p.m., Friday, Nov. 24.

“Now, we get to practice on Thanksgiving Day and this feels great,” said Sompayrac, who scored the game’s first touchdown on a 7-yard run, on a fourth-down play, with 10:21 remaining in the first quarter.

The TD run was set up when D.J. Mitchell had a long return of the opening kickoff that set up the Irish on the Oak Ridge 16-yard line.

Kicker Paxton Robertson added the first of five extra points for a 7-0 Irish lead.

It was a game filled with turnovers and assorted miscues, especially early as Catholic [10-3] and the Wildcats both sputtered on offense.

Oak Ridge [10-3] featured an especially stingy defense on this night as the Wildcats surrendered just 335 yards of total offense to the Irish.

“Oak Ridge did some great things defensively,” Catholic head coach Steve Matthews said. “They have a great defensive football team and coach [Joe] Gaddis does a great job over there. ... We were able to put 35 [offensive] points on them.

“This wasn’t a great game for us because we didn’t execute things on offense like we usually do,” he added. “But a lot of the credit for that has to go to Oak Ridge because they play such good defense.”

KCHS took a 14-0 lead when Joshua Brown scored on a 3-yard run. That touchdown was set up when Catholic recovered a fumble on the Wildcats’ 12-yard line.

Wildcat Jordan Graham came up with a dazzling kickoff return that placed ORHS at the Irish 28. Oak Ridge pulled to within 14-6 on a 13-yard touchdown pass from Johnny Stewart to Kai’Reese Pendergrass.

The Irish scored a pair of touchdowns in the third frame. Running back Joe Fluker rushed for a 12-yard score midway through the period. Catholic extended its advantage to 28-6 when Sompayrac connected with Cameron Blakely on a 36-yard scoring strike.

That touchdown was set up by an interception by Mitchell, who made life miserable for the Wildcats all night. He was a factor on special teams and made several key tackles. He also broke up multiple passes from Stewart.

However, a Stewart TD run followed by his 26-yard touchdown pass with 8:48 remaining in the game — plus a two-point conversion — cut the lead to 28-20.

Catholic picked up a safety when the Wildcats were called for holding in their end zone with 2:54 left.

Sompayrac found Dashon Bussell on a 27-yard scoring strike to make it 37-20 with 2:30 to play.