POWELL — A bad lateral, which turned into a Powell go-ahead 44-yard touchdown with just 3:51 left in the game, almost sent Knoxville Catholic home a loser — having blown a 23-7 halftime lead — in its huge road showdown with Class 5A’s No. 3 state-ranked Panthers.
But it was bad snap from center that, ironically, turned into the game-winning play for the Irish in a wild and wet finish Thursday night, Oct. 21.
The game’s star offensive player, senior receiver Tommy Winton, and KCHS head coach Korey Mobbs both showered praise on freshman quarterback Jayden Neal for turning a possible turnover, or huge loss of yardage, into a 13-yard touchdown pass to Winton with just 49 seconds left in a 30-29 victory.
“Most guys would have fallen on it there, but he’s calm — and he picks it up and throws a touchdown,” the Irish coach said.
“He’s calm, he’s cool and he’s collected, and has been since day one” Mobbs added. “He might have cracked a smile tonight because he’s an even-keel kind of kid.”
“The way he stays calm is amazing,” Winton said of Neal.
The winning touchdown was set up after Catholic blocked a 45-yard field goal attempt and took over at its own 46 with 2:20 remaining.
The Neal-to-Winton connection also resulted in TD passes of 29 and 22 yards, as the senior ended with 106 yards receiving yards on seven catches.
Defensive back Javis Mynatt’s interception near midfield with just seven seconds to play sealed the victory. It was his second of the game.
“We believe in each other. We faced a little adversity, but we stood in there and we kept fighting and we didn’t give up,” Mynatt said. “We played like a family all the way through.”
“I think it shows anything you want to know about our kids, regardless of the circumstance, regardless if it’s controversial — we found a way to win with a freshman quarterback that led us down there at the end,” Mobbs said. “I’m really proud of the way we handled that.”
Having Winton as a main target helps, the coach added.
“Tommy’s one of the best players in the state of Tennessee. … And Tommy’s a phenomenal young man and a team captain. He has shown Jayden the way things are to be led.”.
Defensively, “I thought we did a great job of bottling them up in the first half,” Mobbs said. “They’ve got players,” which includes one of the nation’s top lineman in senior Walter Nolan.
Senior linebacker Raaphell Mayes’ 34-yard interception return for a touchdown, coming with just 14 second left in the first half, made it 23-7 Irish.
Senior linebacker Eli Jones led the Irish in total stops with 15 solo tackles, while defensive back Quincy Pannell added 10.
Though saying his defense was “on the field too much” when the Irish offense couldn’t move the football in the second half, “we created turnovers, and that was the difference in the ballgame,” the coach added.
Brock Taylor booted a 24-yard field goal for Catholic.
The victory, and the way it happened, “gives us a little shot in the arm,” Mobbs said. “We were reeling with two straight losses.
“I’m just proud of the way our guys came back in crazy circumstances.”