KNOXVILLE — Baylor School football coach Phil Massey knew Knoxville Catholic would start fast, but he hoped his Red Raiders could weather the storm and position themselves for a second-half run.
That run came, but a series of first-half miscues made for an insurmountable deficit as Catholic rolled to a 35-16 victory Friday night.
"We were hoping we'd be in better condition and maybe play better the second half and just kind of survive the onslaught at the beginning," Massey said. "But the one thing we said we couldn't do is turn the ball over."
A running clock in the third quarter suggested that Knoxville Catholic, the defending 5A state champion, ran out to a 35-0 lead with sheer athletic superiority, but Baylor flashed the potential to compete with the Irish. Its chances of doing so were simply ruined in a sea of untimely miscues, including four turnovers.
The game started with a defensive highlight for Baylor. Junior linebacker Noah Martin sacked Catholic quarterback Jack Jancek for an 11-yard loss on the game's first series after the Irish crossed midfield.
But Catholic converted on fourth-and-12 with a Jancek pass to Adam Jones that set the tone for the rest of the game.
Each time Baylor grabbed a shred of momentum — as it did with Martin's early sack — Catholic overcame the adversity in a major way.
The most crushing example for Baylor came with Catholic leading 21-0 in the second quarter and facing a third-and-41 from its own 2-yard line.
Catholic converted with a 58-yard completion that set up another score.
"I thought that was the play of the ballgame for them, the third-and-long coming out of their end zone and they convert," Massey said. "That can't happen."
A perfectly executed Baylor punt and penalty against Catholic in the end zone got the Red Raiders on the board with a safety late in the third quarter.
As Catholic inserted reserves late in the game, Baylor capitalized with two touchdowns. The first was a 3-yard run by Santeri Valpas, and the second was a 16-yard pass from Lorenzo White to Gabriel Stulce.
"We did at least put up some points in the second half," Massey said. "Granted, they were playing some of their backups at that point, but at least we got a little bit of momentum where we can try to take some positive stuff away from it and move forward next week."
Baylor hosts Marist School from Atlanta next week in a third straight game against an opponent that played in a 2017 state final.
Contact David Cobb at email@example.com.