Irish top Spartans for first time since 2018

By Ken Lay

Streaks are made to be broken.

And on Wednesday night, Catholic High School’s boys soccer team snapped a long winless streak against longtime rival Webb School of Knoxville.

The Irish also took a major step towards qualifying for the postseason as they captured a 2-0 victory over the Spartans at Morris Field.

After the final whistle sounded, Catholic celebrated the end of a long run of futility in the Cedar Bluff Area rivalry.

The Irish hadn’t beaten their rivals since 2018 when they notched a 4-2 victory at Blaine Stadium. The two sides tied, 1-1, in 2019 and played to a 4-4 draw during the regular season before Webb notched a win in the Region II-AA East Region Tournament.

“This is kind of a big moment for our team,” said Catholic senior Grayson Goodale, who sealed the Irish’s victory with his second-half goal, scored in 54th minute. “It means a lot.

“It’s exactly how I want to go out my senior year, scoring a goal in a rivalry game.”

It was a big moment for Goodale. But it conceivably almost never happened. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Goodale, a two-sport athlete at Catholic, was in eighth grade and had seceded to not play soccer and concentrate solely on football.

But after sitting out his freshman soccer season, he returned as a sophomore and has been playing ever since, while continuing to play running back and defensive back on the football field.

He instantly recaptured the love for the game that he played from the time he was five years old after talking to the Irish coaches and making the decision to return.

“I loved it and I was just right back to where I was before,” Goodale said. “These last three years, I’ve just grown with the team, and our team has grown tremendously over the past three years.”

He’s glad he returned to the pitch and so is Catholic coach Gordon Heins.

“He’s gone from a football player to a great soccer player, Heins said.

In recent years, the Irish have come together on the pitch. Just look at their latest results against the Spartans.

“We’ve come a long way,” Heins said. “This group of seniors lost to them, 8-1, when they were freshmen. Then they lost, 7-1, when they were sophomores.

“This has been a long time coming and I respect (Webb’s) team. I respect their coach and I respect their program. It’s been a four-year process to get to this point of finally being able to compete and finally getting the monkey off our backs.”

Catholic (10-2-1, 2-1 in the region) took a 1-0 lead in the match when Joshua Palacios converted a penalty kick in the 33rd minute after Goodale was fouled in the goal box.

Webb coach Jared Zeigler was extremely distraught after seeing his team fall to 3-4 overall and 0-2 in the region.

“Catholic deserved it,” he said. “They outplayed us, they outpossessed us and they outclassed us,” Zeigler said. “We’re all upset. We’re upset with the kids for not putting in the effort.

“You can get upset, but eventually, you have to do something about it.”