Hixson Falls Late To Knox Catholic, 14-13

Fighting Irish Win For Second Week On Stopped Two-Point Conversion

Friday, November 22, 2013 - by John Hunt

The Hixson Wildcats won the battle, but the Knoxville Catholic Fighting Irish won the war.

The Wildcats had a memorable season as they advanced for the first time to the third round of the TSSAA football playoffs.

But it just wasn't meant to be as the Fighting Irish prevailed for the second-straight week on a stopped two-point conversion.

The Fighting Irish had nipped Signal Mountain last week on a late two-point run that came up short.  They did the same thing at Hixson a week later.

Hixson's season ends at 9-4 while Knox Catholic lives to play another week at 10-3 following the heart-stopping 14-13 victory at Hixson Community Stadium Friday night.

Hixson's bread and butter all season has been the productivity of running backs Isaiah Robinson and Kedrick Bradley as both surpassed 1,000 yards on the ground.

The Wildcats once again dominated the line of scrimmage for the first three quarters and overall for the game, but the Fighting Irish started playing serious football in the final 12 minutes and there was very little that Hixson's defense could do to stop them.

Hixson had a 158-90 advantage in total yards for the first half and a 7-0 lead following an eight-yard run by Robinsin with 8.3 seconds left before intermission.  Luke White's kick completed the 13-play, 66-yard drive that consumed more than three and a half minutes.

Neither team scored in the third quarter, but senior David Hamilton got the Irish headed in the right direction when he recovered a Hixson fumble at their own 24 with 2:30 left in the third stanza.

It took 4:28 for Knox Catholic to go 76 yards, using 14 plays to do so.  Quarterback Zac Jancek, who had thrown a pair of interceptions in the first half, was incomplete on his first attempt before connecting on his next seven attempts. 

The slender junior then scored on a scramble from the 9 with 10:02 to play.  Wyatt Price converted the extra-point kick and all of a sudden the game was knotted at 7-7.

Hamilton recovered his second fumble on Hixson's third play at the Wildcat 41 and needed just six plays to cover those 41 yards and the visitors had a 14-7 lead with 6:36 to play.

The Wildcats certainly weren't ready to toss in the white towel as they took the kickoff and marched 84 yards in 10 plays.

Preston Wilkey was on the receiving end of a 22-yard pass from quarterback Gill Brown and the difference was 14-13 with 2:12 to play.

Hixson coach Jason Fitzgerald didn't hesitate as he called for the two-point conversion, but Robinson was stopped short of the end zone with the Wildcats still trailing by a point.

Justin Nicholson recovered a fumble for Hixson at the Wildcat 43 with just over a minute to play, so the Wildcats still had a shot, despite being out of timeouts.

Jordan Johnson picked up a first down with a nine-yard reception on fourth and 6, but Brown had three straight incompletions before getting sacked by Corey Ostrowski to end any hopes of a comeback.

Hixson's Fitzgerald had plenty of praise for his team and the outstanding season that just concluded.

"We laid it all on the line tonight and I'd go for two again without a second thought.  We've been winning all year with our running backs and the strength of our offensive line, but they just happened to stop them on that play.

"We had a great run and this is the first time Hixson has ever gone to the third round, so I think we put Hixson back on the football map.  It was a great game, but we helped them with our turnovers.  You just can't give a team like that s short field and expect to do well,"

The veteran coach, he himself a former offensive lineman, was quick to praise the work of his guys up front, including seniors Charles Franklin and Anthony Kring and juniors Jacob Bird, Ryan Turner and Garrett Wheeler. 

Knox Catholic's Steve Matthews, a former Tennessee Vol quarterback who is in his first year as the Fighting Irish head coach. was just proud that his team never gave up.

"That was a tough game," Matthews began.

"We didn't play very well in the first half, but we finally put it together in the second.  I'm just thankful that get to coach more football next week.  We could have laid down, but we didn't," he added.

Hixson won the statistical battle with 326 total yards, including 295 on the ground.  Knox Catholic finished with 232 total yards, including 175 through the air.

Robinson was the workhorse for Hixson as he finished with 187 yards on 32 carries and the one TD.  Bradley had 47 yard on 14 carries while James Cole added 40 yards on four attempts in the second half.

Chase Kuerschen was the standout for Knox Catholic as he snagged 10 passes for 115 yards.  Will Martinez had two grabs for 30 yards.

Hixson easily won the first-down battle by a 22-14 margin.

KNOX CATHOLIC   0  0  0  14 -- 14

HIXSON                    0  7  0  6   -- 13

HIX -- Isaiah Robinson 8 run  (Luke White kick), 8.2 seconds left in second;

KC -- Zac Jancek 9 run (Wyatt Price kick), 10:02 left in fourth;

KC -- Logan Lacey 1 run (Price kick), 6:36 left in fourth;

HIX -- Preston Wilkey 22 pass from Gill Brown (run failed), 2:12 left in fourth.

(Email John Hunt at nomarathonmoose@comcast.net)

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