By Steve Williams
Adam Jones made up for lost playing time Friday night. Boy, did he ever!
The Knoxville Catholic High senior wide receiver and son of former UT head coach Butch Jones was playing his first full game since suffering a broken collarbone in Week 2. He caught two touchdown passes and amassed 251 receiving yards as the Fighting Irish pulled out a 34-28 win over West in a TSSAA Class 5A first-round playoff game at Blaine Stadium.
Catholic junior quarterback Jack Jancek also played his first full game, after missing nine games with an ankle injury. Both Jones and Jancek returned and got in limited action in the final regular season game against Lenoir City.
It got to the point every time Jancek put the football in the air; Catholic fans expected the 6-3, 175-pound Jones to haul it in. He was that consistent.
Adam’s performance included 10 catches and was just four yards shy of the school record.
“Adam was fantastic,” said Head Coach Steve Matthews. “He’s a tall receiver who runs really good routes and catches the ball. He was our go-to-guy tonight.”
Freshman standout Tommy Winton also was a key contributor in the win. He had seven receptions for 143 yards and showed his lightning speed on one touchdown dash to the end zone.
Jancek finished with 454 yards through the air (only 50 short of the school record) as he completed 24 of 36 passes for four TDs and four interceptions.
The victory advances the Irishmen (7-3) into a second round game at playoff rival Fulton (10-1) this Friday night in North Knoxville.
West hangs up a 4-7 record.
It was a game of two halves. The first two quarters were an offensive shootout and the Rebels went into the dressing room leading 28-24.
Catholic’s defense, however, pitched a shutout after intermission, while its offense put 10 more points on the scoreboard to avoid the upset.
Jones’ best catch of the night put the Irish ahead for good in the closing seconds of the third quarter. Jancek’s long pass to the southeast corner of the field was tipped by a defensive back, but Adam snagged the ricochet and fell into paydirt. Paxton Robertson’s extra-point kick made it 31-28.
After West failed to sustain its ensuing possession after driving to the Catholic 46-yard line, the Irishmen went on a time-consuming 20-play march that ended with a 37-yard field goal by Robertson with 3:31 remaining.
Trailing by only six points, West advanced the ball to the 50 on a defensive pass interference call and senior quarterback Jawaun Moore completed an 11-yard pass to Cedarius Bost for another first down at the Catholic 39.
But the Irishmen applied pressure and stiffened. On fourth and eight at the 37, Moore completed a six-yard pass – but the play ended two yards short of the first down marker.
The Rebels forced a punt but were out of timeouts and in desperation mode at their 36-yard line with 19.3 seconds left. A last gasp pass was completed as the final seconds ticked off the clock and the West receiver was tackled at the Catholic 36.
“Getting some stops in the second half was critical for us,” said Coach Matthews. “We probably underestimated their offense and they were able to hurt us a little bit in the first half.”
Jancek found Winton open in the middle of the end zone and hit him with a 15-yard pass to give Catholic an early 7-0 lead.
West also scored on its first possession as Grant Tierney ran in from five yards out and Marc Scherer’s PAT kick tied it.
After picking off their first pass, the Rebels went ahead 14-7 when Michael Webb ran a fly pattern and Moore hit him on the money for a 53-yard scoring play.