Irish invite mighty Rebs to KCHS; CAK at home, Webb at Vanderbilt

Tommy Cunningham, Webb sophomore receiver, runs for big yardage against West in KOC Kick-Off Classic Friday, Aug. 11, in Neyland Stadium. Spartan Jackson Bradley (73) looks for a block.
KNOXVILLE — High schools across Tennessee will open their 2018 football season this week and three area private schools will start with some big games.

Knoxville Catholic High School and Christian Academy of Knoxville will both be home Friday night, Aug. 13, while Webb School of Knoxville will head to Nashville to play Evangelical Christian School, a tradition-rich team from the Memphis area, in a game at Vanderbilt Stadium.

The Irish will host Maryville at Blaine Stadium in a matchup between two defending state champions. KCHS went 12-3 in 2017 and left Cookeville with the Class 5A title while the Rebels (14-1 last season) captured the gold ball after winning the Class 6A state championship.

The two teams opened the 2017 campaign in Blount County, with Maryville winning a thriller in a 49-42 shootout.

“We’re looking forward to playing them,” said Steve Matthews, Irish head coach, who has guided Catholic to two state championships in the last three seasons. “It’s the biggest game this week and this is what high school football is all about.

“We respect them and we’re looking forward to this. These games are why you come to Catholic. We’re not as athletic as we were last year and we’re very young. But we’re looking forward to this opportunity. Maryville is the premiere team around here and coach (Derek) Hunt does a great job with them.”

“We had a great game against them here last year. coach Matthews does a great job,” Hunt said. “That’s what high school football is all about. That was a game that you hated to see either team lose. But somebody had to.

“At the end of the night, they were just as deserving to win that game as we were.”

Meanwhile, CAK will host Christ School from Arden, North Carolina at Warrior Stadium. Those two teams met last year in Arden. There, the Greenies prevailed 28-11. The Warriors made the Division II-A state playoffs but finished with a 2-9 record.

“Nobody wants to be a team that goes 2-9. Everybody is going to be interested in how we respond,” said head coach Travis Mozingo, who opens his third season at CAK. “I met with our seniors (Saturday, Aug. 11) and told them that when they came back to school on Monday, that it would be game week.

“We’ve scrimmaged Clinton and Karns and we’ve gotten better. Christ is a very talented football team. ... They’ll represent a big challenge for us because they have different transfer rules than we do in Tennessee and they’ll have a lot of fifth-year seniors.”

Webb, meanwhile, will travel to Music City to play Evangelical Christian, which hails from Cordova. The game was added last month, and Webb head coach David Meske said he added it to give the Spartans a chance to play in a Southeastern Conference venue.

“The reason I agreed to play is because the game will be at Vanderbilt,” said Meske, who has coached Webb for more than three decades. “This is exciting for our kids. We’ve played them for state championships.”

Jahlil Jefferson, a senior running back, had touchdown scampers of 34 and 26 yards in the Spartans’ 14-0 win over the West High Rebels in the jamboree.

“It was great for us to get the chance to play here at UT, and we’re looking forward to the ECS game at Vanderbilt,” Jefferson said. “I had a big night but I couldn’t have done it without our (offensive) line. They’ve really improved.”