By Ken Lay

When Catholic High School senior linebacker Raphell Mayes returned an interception for a touchdown just before halftime, it helped the Irish open a big lead on a rainy Thursday night in North Knox County.

It gave Catholic a 23-7 advantage and the Irish appeared poised to take an easy stroll into the win column.

But it didn’t happen that way at Powell’s Scarbro Stadium. The Irish would win, but it would be anything but easy.

It took a successful extra point from kicker Brock Taylor to propel Catholic to a 30-29 victory in the first-ever meeting between two of the most successful high school football programs in Knox County. The point after came after Jayden Neal threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Tommy Winton with 49 seconds remaining.

Powell then had a potential game-winning drive stopped when Javis Mynatt intercepted a pass to seal the victory.

After a lackluster first half, Powell scored 22 unanswered points to take a 29-23 lead when Walter Nolen recovered a Catholic fumble. He would fumble but his teammate Daniel Stanford picked up the ball and returned it to the end zone with 3 minutes, 51 seconds remaining in the contest. A successful two-point conversion followed and the Panthers’ comeback appeared to be complete.

After building a big first-half lead, Catholic (5-3) struggled after the break. The Irish were their own worst enemies in the second half as they had several penalties that caused offensive drives to stall. Defensively, Catholic was largely ineffective after keeping the Panthers (7-2) in check throughout much of the first half.

“We’ve got to finish drives and we’ve got to finish games,” said Catholic first-year head coach Korey Mobbs, who saw his team avoid a three-game losing streak. “I think we have a good football team and one day, we’ll put together a full game.”

The Irish would finish this one. They persevered and passed this stiff test, but things didn’t start well for the Irish as Winton lost a fumble on Catholic’s first possession.

The Panthers recovered and cashed in a short time later when Jordyn Potts connected with Adarius Redmond on an 8-yard touchdown pass to give Powell the lead less than five minutes into the game.

Winton, however, would redeem himself.

He would finish the contest with seven receptions for 86 yards. He had three scores, including the game-winner.

Catholic took its first lead when Taylor kicked a 24-yard field goal with 8:12 left in the second quarter to make the score 10-7.

Winton had a 38-yard touchdown catch before Mayes’ defensive touchdown helped the Irish close the first half with a flourish.

Powell scored midway through the third quarter on a 5-yard touchdown run by Jarvis Stockton. The Panthers made a two-point conversion to pull to within 23-15.

In the fourth quarter, Stockton had another 5-yard scoring dash to make it 23-21 but he was stopped on the ensuing conversion attempt.

Powell rallied back to take the lead with big plays but it was Catholic’s defense that shined at times especially when the Irish picked off Potts three times and Mynatt had two of those interceptions.

“I’m really proud of our kids. This was fun,” Mobbs said. “They have some good players and we knew they did.

“(Potts) is a great player and he made some big plays.”