KNOXVILLE, Tenn — It’s almost fall in Knoxville, and for Catholic High School that means it’s football time for the Fighting Irish. This year Catholic High School will be transitioning to the TSSAA’s Division II subdivision. As far as on the field focus goes though, not much has changed for head coach Steve Matthews and his team.
Matthews is heading into his seventh year as Catholic’s head coach, and he’s developed a culture of winning during his tenure in Knoxville. During his previous six seasons as head coach, Catholic High School has won two state championships, with the Irish finishing their 2018 campaign just one win away from another state championship game appearance. Overall, during Matthews’ time at the helm Catholic has a playoff record of 19-4.
However, Matthews isn’t getting complacent with the success of previous seasons.
“We better bring it every Friday or we can not only get beat, we can get embarrassed because we’re playing some outstanding teams” said Matthews.
Fans should look for more of the same this season as far as style of play is concerned. Catholic looks to be physical up front on both sides of the line of scrimmage. On offense however, a physical brand doesn’t mean they’ll shy away from big plays. Coach Matthews pointed out that the offensive line is averaging about 280 pounds per player this year. In high school, that’s going to be very tough for teams to compete with.
Senior offensive lineman Cooper Mays is confident going into the 2019 season. Mays committed to play football just down the road, at the University of Tennessee back in June. While many in Knoxville are excited for him to get to campus, he insists that his focus is on his senior year at Catholic.
“The biggest thing is just winning a state championship. That’s the goal every year.” Mays went on to say “I’m not really looking that far ahead at all. I’m just trying to stay right here in right now.”
Fellow senior offensive lineman Bryn Tucker, who is committed to Clemson also talked to us about his love for the high school game.
“There’s not been a day go by that I don’t like high school football.” Bryn Tucker went on to say, “I love it, I love the game. I love the atmosphere on game day.”
While the offensive line will surely be a major strength for this year’s team, there are other playmakers to look out for as well. Coach Matthews even pointed out a freshman that has a chance to make a big impact. Karaaz Johnson, a class of 2023 prospect, already has offers from Georgia and Memphis among others.
“We’ve been good at receivers, but I think we’ve got a chance to be great this year,” Matthews told WBIR.
Fighting Irish fans will have the chance to see three of the state’s top 10 ranked football players in the class of 2020 suit up for Catholic this season. In other words, this team is loaded. The quest for their third state championship in 7 years will begin with a matchup against Chucky Doak on Friday, August 23 at Catholic High School.