Prep football November 22Cleveland's Raekwon Bunion (8) rushes around the edge at East Hamilton High School on Friday.
Knox Catholic 14, Hixson 13
The star: Hixson running back Isaiah Robinson gained 183 yards and scored a TD.
Up next: Catholic visits the Fulton-Greeneville winner.
For the second consecutive week, Knoxville Catholic turned away a Chattanooga area opponent's two-point conversion and escaped with a one-point win.
The Irish rallied from a 7-0 deficit to take a 14-13 win at Hixson, successfully defending the Wildcats' two-point try for the win with 2:12 left.
"We've won all year with defense, our offensive line and our running backs," Hixson coach Jason Fitzgerald said. "We're at the 3-yard line, and if I had to do it again I'd make the same call."
Catholic came from behind last week at Signal Mountain and beat the Eagles 38-37 in the second overtime when Signal elected to go for two and was turned away.
"They do a good job on those," Irish coach Steve Matthews said of his players when asked how he liked defending two-point plays.
The win boosted the Irish to their 10th win of the season and a berth on the road in the Class 4A semifinals against the Knoxville Fulton-Greeneville winner.
The Wildcats might not have been in a position of needing a two-point conversion had they been able to hold onto the football. They lost three fumbles, two in Irish territory when it appeared they were well on their way to scores.
But the same could be said of Catholic's first half, when dependable quarterback Zac Jancik was picked off twice, one at the Wildcats' 3-yard line.
"We came in maybe a little bit rugged because of last week's [physical] game, and we did not have a good first half," Matthews said. "We were able to put it together in the second half and pull out another close win."
The Irish actually didn't put it together until the fourth quarter. Hixson handled everything they had to offer in the first three quarters and was pitching a shutout until Catholic countered Isaiah Robinson's second-quarter 8-yard run with a 10-yard run by Jancik and the first of two successful Wyatt Price point-after kicks.
Hixson kept the clamps on Jancik and his mates through the first three quarters, holding them to seven first downs and teaming with the offense to allow Catholic just a pair of third-quarter possessions.
However, Jancik, who led the rally against Signal Mountain, heated up in the fourth quarter and put the Irish in position for their go-ahead score with numerous completions to Chase Kuerschen, who finished with 10 catches for 111 yards (seven for 73 in the second half).
Logan Lacey got the go-ahead TD on a 1-yard run.
Hixson's Marshall Cooper recovered a fumble with slightly more than a minute left, but the Irish defense, putting the Wildcats in passing mode, were able to stem the tide and run out the final 26 seconds.
"We didn't get where we wanted [to go], but leave with your heads high. You guys have had a heck of a year," Fitzgerald told his team.
Contact Ward Gossett at email@example.com or 423-886-4765. Follow him at Twitter.com/wardgossett.
Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...