By Ken Lay

A rare occurrence happened on the soccer pitch recently when Central High made the trip to Sevier County to play the Seymour Eagles.

Sure, it was just a non-league match. And the Bobcats notched a 2-0 win, but the game represented more as each team had a player that recently received an appointment to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

Both Isaac Katz of Central and the Eagles’ Brysen Kraft are (or have been) coached by Chris Quinn.

Quinn, the current Bobcats’ coach, has coached Katz in Fountain City during his high school career. The coach, himself a service veteran, has mentored Kraft, who recently finished his stint with Blount United soccer club.

It was a special but bitter-sweet night for Quinn, who might’ve seen Kraft play for the last time,

“Brysen is a great young man. He was on the (club) team when I took over,” Quinn said. “They’re both selfless young men and they’re both great leaders and I’m excited to see what they’re going to do. “You don’t have to micromanage (Katz). He always has so much going on, but you know that he’s going to make the right decision.

“I know that they’re both going to do great things.”

Katz (who scored one of Central’s goals against the Eagles on Thursday, April 6) and Quinn still have some unfinished business together as the young Bobcats continue their 2023 season.

And the farewell between coach and player will be an emotional one when the 2023 campaign comes to an end.

Quinn had an emotional goodbye with Kraft and his mother.

“We hugged after the game and I knew it was goodbye,” said Quinn, who served in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2002. “The commitment that both of these young men is making to serve their country is impressive.

“I’m so proud of both of them and I’m honored to have been their coach. They’re going to be great soldiers and great Midshipmen.”

Katz and Kraft both know that their respective careers are coming to an end. But both are ready to see the world.

“I’m ready to go out and see the world, or at least ready to see Annapolis,” Katz said in an interview over Spring Break, just after receiving his appointment. “I would say that this is a nice way to see the world.”

Kraft and Katz never met before game night, but they have much in common.

“This appeals to me more than going to a regular college,” Kraft said. “I can’t wait to go.”

Kraft is looking to major in aeronautical engineering. His goal is to become a pilot.

“I’ll probably look to serve 20 years and then become a commercial pilot, he said. “I’ve always wanted to be a pilot.”

Katz is looking at going into the nuclear energy field.

“I’m entering to study nuclear engineering and if I don’t do that, I’m going to study physics,” Katz said. “I’m hoping to come back and get a job at (Oak Ridge National Laboratory. I want to study nuclear fusion. Right now, everybody is studying fission and I want to do something with fusion.”