Irish rip Beech, grab 5A crown
COOKEVILLE — For the second time in three years, Knoxville Catholic High School has brought home a gold ball.
The Irish defeated Beech 45-28 in the Class 5A state championship game Thursday, Nov. 30, in Tennessee Tech University’s Tucker Stadium.
KCHS, which won the Class 4A state title in 2015, darted out to a 17-0 lead against the previously undefeated Buccaneers, who hail from Hendersonville.
For Catholic, the victory culminated a campaign where the goal was to win a gold ball — any other outcome would have been considered a disappointment.
“This is a great group of young men and they’ve been a privilege to coach,” KCHS head coach Steve Matthews said. “We lose 12 seniors and most of them are going on to play college football.
“They all made big contributions for us and they’ll all be missed. But we have a lot of good people coming back,” he added.” This was a big team win for us. I was happy to see them get the chance to play for a championship, and I’m proud that I got to see them win it.”
The Irish (12-3) never trailed in the game but they had to withstand a rally from Beech, which pulled to within 24-21 early in the third quarter thanks to a 20-yard run by Kaeman Dunlap.
Catholic got off to a fast start as it scored a touchdown on the inaugural drive of the contest. The Irish engineered a 10-play, 79-yard drive that ended when senior quarterback Jack Sompayrac connected with Dashon Bussell on a 16-yard scoring strike. It was 6-0 with 8 minutes, 20 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Paxton Robertson, who converted the first of six extra points, would later add a 23-yard field goal to give the Irish a 10-0 lead.
Catholic would extend its advantage to 17-0 on a 1-yard scoring scamper from Joshua Brown with 8:24 left in the second stanza.
The Buccaneers (14-1) got on the board when quarterback Nelson Smith hit Dyilin Hoosier with a 19-yard touchdown pass.
The Irish would answer when Sompayrac again hooked up with Bussell for a 28-yard scoring pass.
Beech pulled to within 24-14 when Smith found Hoosier from 33 yards out with 21 seconds remaining until halftime.
The Buccaneers then made things interesting on Dunlap’s touchdown scamper on their first possession after the break.
But Catholic would pull away. Sompayrac had a pair of short touchdown plunges, while the Irish defense changed the complexion of the game.
Sophomore defensive end Stiles Moore recovered a Beech fumble and rumbled 33 yards for a score that made it 45-21 in the third frame.
The Bucs got a fourth-quarter TD on Smith’s 40-yard touchdown pass in the final moments.
Brown led the Irish rushing attack with 99 yards and a touchdown. Joe Fluker had eight carries for 81 yards. Sompayrac amassed 56 yards and scored twice on 11 attempts.
Sompayrac was 10-for-14 passing with 162 yards and two scores.
“I was really proud of Jack,” Matthews said. “He didn’t have a lot of experience coming into the season. But he’s worked hard to get a solid grasp on our offense and he’s emerged as a leader for us.”
Defensively for the Irish, Larry Liverman had nine tackles (all solo) and forced the fumble that resulted in Moore’s touchdown.