Knoxville Catholic and Beech both entered the 2017 5A BlueCross Bowl looking to earn their third state title. The Beech Buccaneers last won a title in 2012 while the Knoxville Catholic Fighting Irish won the 4A title in 2015.
Beech’s undefeated record this season and run through the playoffs has been spurred by their suffocating defense. However, the Fighting Irish came out firing on all cylinders on offense. Knoxville Catholic is blessed with a bevy of skill position players and they spread the ball around early. Senior WR Dashon Bussell was left open in the corner of the end zone for the 16 yard touchdown reception from Jack Sompayrac to open the scoring.
Beech employed a well executed quick kick on 4th down to pin Knoxville Catholic inside their own two yard line for the Fighting Iris’ second possession. Knoxville Catholic flipped the field position right back when running back Josh Brown broke multiple tackle attempts in route to a 47 yard gain. Beech would bow up in the red zone and force the Fighting Irish to settle for a field goal and the 10-0 lead. Knoxville Catholic got the ball back after a Beech three and out and scored again on a Josh Brown one yard run to push the lead to 17-0.
At this point, it appeared Knoxville Catholic was on the verge of putting the game away early. Beech didn’t get to 14-0 by giving in though. The Buccaneers’ offense finally broke through late in the 2nd quarter on a 19 yard pass from QB Nelson Smith to dynamic threat Dyilin Hoosier. After another Fighting Irish score by Dashon Bussell, Beech drove the ball down the field in a race against the halftime break. The Buccaneers faced a 4th and 8 from the Knoxville Catholic 33 yard line with less than thirty seconds left in the half. The Beech coaching staff called a brilliantly conceived play action pass play to Dyilin Hoosier for a touchdown and a shift to momentum. Knoxville Catholic still led 24-14 at the break but it felt like momentum was squarely on the Beech sideline.
Beech carried that momentum into their first possession of the 2nd half. Buccaneer star running back Kaemon Dunlap finally found some positive traction on the ground and worked in tandem with Nelson Smith and Dyilin Hoosier to sustain a long drive into Catholic territory. Dunlap finished off the drive with a twenty yard touchdown run featuring a sweet spin move on a linebacker tackle attempt. Beech had now narrowed the lead to 24-21 but it was the closest they would come.
A few disastrous 3rd quarter plays for Beech spelled the end to their title hopes. The defensive unit for Beech continually forced Knoxville Catholic into 3rd down situations but couldn’t get the final stop they needed to force a punt. The Fighting Irish converted a 3rd and 16 on the possession following the Dunlap touchdown to extend their drive. Sompayrac scrambled away from a sack to rush for a touchdown a few plays later. Knoxville Catholic put the game out of reach on a fumble return touchdown by Stiles Moore to end Beech’s next possession. Each team scored once in the 4th quarter to put the final score at 45-28 in favor of Knoxville Catholic. The Fighting Irish are taking the 5A state title back home to Knoxville.