Catholic shakes off loss with rout of Rhea County

Mike Blackerby, For USA TODAY Network, TennesseePublished 10:46 p.m. ET Sept. 28, 2017 | Updated 8:08 a.m. ET Sept. 29, 2017

After suffering a beat-down loss to nationally ranked Brentwood Academy last week, Catholic quarterback Jack Sompayrac said the Irish had a point to prove Thursday night against visiting Rhea County.

They also had some key Region 4-5A business to take care of.

Catholic did both in a convincing 49-24 win over the Golden Eagles.

Sompayrac accounted for 344 total yards and five touchdowns and the Irish scored on their first six possessions to win going away.

“Last week was a wake-up call for us,” said Sompayrac.

“We knew we weren’t where we needed to be. We came in really motivated and really executed. We didn’t do anything crazy, we just did what we needed to.”

Sompayrac completed 13-of-16 passes for 234 yards. He threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to DaShon Bussell to open the scoring and later hooked up with Cam Blakely on TD strikes of 4 and 24 yards.

The 6-foot-2, 195-pound senior also ran for a team-high 110 yards on 12 carries and scored on runs of 12 and 5 yards.

The Irish improve to 4-3 overall and 2-0 in the region while Rhea County, which is coached by former Catholic coach Mark Pemberton, falls to 3-4 and 2-1 in the region.

Pemberton coached seven seasons at Catholic and led the Irish to the 2008 Class 3A state title.

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“We played much better tonight — the first six weeks have been tough,” said Catholic coach Steve Matthews. “Jack Sompayrac is getting better every day in practice. I’m proud of the way he’s performing.”

Bussell had another huge night for the Irish.

The senior, who is being recruited hard by Tennessee, scored on a backbreaking 90-yard kickoff return with just 18 seconds to play in the first half to put Catholic on top 28-10.

Tennessee coach Butch Jones was in attendance at the game. Catholic’s roster also includes Cade Mays, a five-star offensive lineman committed to Tennessee.

Haden Frashier kicked a 38-yard field goal for Rhea County on the previous play to trim the gap to 21-10.

Bussell had five receptions for 97 yards and Catholic racked up 499 yards in total offense.

Rhea County rushed for 300 yards but had zero yards passing on just one attempt.

Christian Simon had 140 yards rushing on 23 attempts to lead the Eagles. Brandon Hunt added 94 yards on 15 carries. Both scored on short runs.

Rhea County also got a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Aulbrey Smith to open the second half as the Eagles cut the gap to 28-17.

However, Catholic responded with three unanswered touchdowns to blow the game open.

Mike Blackerby is a freelance contributor