KNOXVILLE — The offense was clicking early Friday night for Knoxville Catholic High School’s football team.
In a battle of defending state champions, the Irish actually scored first against Class 6A state powerhouse Maryville and held a 10-7 lead midway through the second quarter.
But KCHS couldn’t sustain things after halftime, and a tired Irish defense would surrender 24 unanswered points in a 31-10 loss before a sold-out house in Blaine Stadium Aug. 17.
“I’m really proud of our defense,” Catholic head coach Steve Matthews said. “... It’s hard to ask them to keep going out there when the offense isn’t doing anything.
“They really battled hard. Our offense didn’t play well, but I promise that it will get better,” he added. “We were 0-1 last year and we won a state championship. We’re playing for November and December. You always hate to lose but we’ll get to where we want to be.”
The Irish took the opening kickoff and marched 80 yards on 11 plays, capped when freshman running back Tommy Winton scored from nine yards out. Paxton Robertson’s conversion kick made the score 7-0.
Winton had a big night for the defending Class 5A state champs, rushing for 117 yards and the game’s opening score. He also had nine receptions for 93 yards.
“He’s a great player and a great kid,” Matthews said. “He works hard on the football field and in the classroom. If he continues to work this hard, he’ll be the next player like Amari Rodgers (now playing for Clemson) and some others that we’ve had here.”
“I know now that I just have to keep working,” Winton said. “I have to keep working harder and we have to keep working harder.”
Tied 7-7, Catholic would retake the lead when Robertson kicked a 25-yard field goal after a long drive stalled on the MHS 8.
After falling behind 10-7, Maryville manufactured enough offense to leave Knoxville with a win.
The Rebels took a 14-10 lead midway through the second quarter when Bryson Teffeteller scored on an 11-yard run. Maryville would also get a 40-yard field goal from Cone on the final play of the first half to make it 17-10.
Tee Hodge would score on a 1-yard plunge late in the third quarter and Teffeteller added a yard scoring scamper from four yards out in the final frame to close out the scoring.
Maryville coach Derek Hunt was pleased to win Friday night.
“I think we did just enough on offense to win,” Hunt said. “Defensively we made some adjustments and we were able to take away certain things where Catholic was picking us apart.
“Both teams are going to make mistakes because this is the first game. I have great respect for their coaching staff and coach Matthews. Catholic has a great program. They’re not just a great team and coach Matthews is one of the best play-callers in the country. I’ve learned a lot from him.”