Catholic went for two after Jack Sompayrac scored on a 7-yard run 1:05 into the fourth quarter to take a 42-7 lead and get the running clock. That’s when the celebration started.
It ends at 4 p.m. Sunday, when Catholic meets for the first practice of state championship week.
“It’s all about Thursday,” coach Steve Matthews told his team after Friday’s win over Central (9-5). “That’s what really matters.”
Catholic (11-3) will meet Beech in the 5A championship Thursday at 7 p.m. at Tennessee Tech.
Two years ago, Catholic beat Pearl-Cohn in the 4A state championship, but last year the Irish felt they underperformed when they were knocked out by Fulton in the first round. They’ve been looking for the chance to redeem themselves ever since.
“This is everything you work for,” said Sompayrac, who threw for 205 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for two more. “We’ve had it in our minds all year: that championship game on Tennessee Tech’s field. It’s an awesome feeling.”
Friday’s game started with a fumble for Catholic, but that was its only hiccup of the night. Two minutes into the second quarter, the Irish had led 17-0, and they had already put more points on the board that Central’s opponents averaged in a game.
“When you start to get a big lead, you just have to keep a level head and realize there’s a whole other quarter,” linebacker Jake Mahoney said. “We can’t let the horizon get too exciting for us.”
The other thing Matthews had to manage was if he should run some plays or hold on to them for next week. He didn’t want to give away too much to help Beech prepare.
Sometimes coming from a blowout to an intense game can be tough. Sompayrac pointed out that anyone who can’t get up for a game at this point in the season shouldn’t be playing anyway. But it can still be a factor.
“That’s a challenge,” Matthews said. “We’ll meet as a staff and we’ll sit down and think about it. It’s tough and we have been a little up and down as a team. But surely, state championship, they’re going to be ready to play.”
FRIDAY NIGHT HIGHLIGHTS: SEMIFINALSFriday night highlights: Catholic 42, Central 7 | 1:00
Clips from the Knoxville Catholic vs. Central game at Central Friday, Nov. 24, 2017.