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Archives 11-23-2005

Sports

Cats knock out Fighting Irish, enter Final Four
LA basketball teams open season in Pickett invitational



Cats knock out Fighting Irish, enter Final Four

Mac McLeod/OCN Sports
Wildcat defenders stop a Fighting Irish run in Friday's 24-20 quarterfinal win at Knoxville Catholic High School, avenging an earlier loss to the Region 2-3A champion.

By MAC McLEOD, OCN Sports
Standing on the sidelines before Friday night's third round playoff game between Livingston Academy and Knoxville Catholic, Wildcats kicker Jonathan McGill wondered just what had happened to his game. After missing two point-after tries in the season opener way back in late August, the senior made good on his next 26 attempts. Then on his last five, he wasn't even close.

"I really think it's in my head," McGill said, "I missed a couple and my confidence started to go away. I practiced hard, but it just wasn't happening. Hopefully, I'll get a chance tonight and hit one and that will get it back together."

With 10 seconds left in the first half and his team trailing 0-7, McGill got his chance. After a sustained drive of 55 yards came to a halt at the Catholic 10, the soft spoken kicker nailed a 27-yard field goal to pull the Wildcats within 4 and set the stage for three more point-after conversions to help Livingston come away with a 24-20 victory and advance to this week's semifinal in the state 3A championships.

"That really helped my confidence," McGill said smiling as he came off the field. "Maybe that's all I needed."

The only other thing he needed was for his teammates to score some touchdowns, and they did. Before the night was over, the Wildcats scored three touchdowns, coming from behind on several occasions. And each time, McGill was true to the mark on the point-after.

The victory sends the Wildcats into territory they have never been before, the state semifinals, which will be played in Livingston on Friday night, Nov. 25 against Notre Dame, a 14-13 winner over White House.

"Eat your Thanksgiving dinner early, boys," an elated LA Head Coach Matt Eldridge told the team after the game. "We'll practice Thursday afternoon."

When Livingston Academy and Knox Catholic met in the fourth game of the regular season, the Wildcats dropped a hard-fought 21-24 decision.

"In that first game, we were a little nervous," Cates said after Friday's win. "It was our first real test in this new region, and although I don't think we were intimidated, we were still a little nervous. We didn't really know what to expect, but after that close loss, we knew if we got a second chance at them, we could win."

Before a packed house in Knoxville on Friday night, both teams struggled early. At the end of the first quarter, neither team had scored. Livingston had 38 yards on the ground, and one first down, and the Irish could only show 33 yards on the ground, 12 in the air, three first downs and three punts.

Then on the first play of the second period, runningback Austin Vann ripped off 32 yards around the right side for the night's first score. The point-after attempt was good, and the home team led 7-0.

On their second possession of the period, the Wildcats got into form, ripping off 14 plays using mostly the hard running of Jake Reeder, Mike Jones-LaRue, and Jamey Vaughn to advance to the Catholic 10. There the drive stalled and McGill came on to hit his field goal.

The 3 points left Livingston on the short end of a 3-7 halftime score.

But a pattern was forming. Offensively, the Wildcats gained 100 yards on the ground in the first 12 minutes of the second half, while the defense held the Fighting Irish to only 58. Before the night was over, LA would pound the Catholic defense for 313 yards on the ground while yielding only 204.

A quick score early in the third period put the Irish up by 11 at 14-3, but the Wildcats would start their trip to the state Final Four on their next possession.

Cates later said, "It was time to show we had come to play. We were down, but we hadn't played all that badly."

Ripping off runs of 21 and 36 yards, Cates moved his team to the home team's 11. On second and goal, Levi Holt pulled in a pass from Cates to narrow the gap to 14-9. McGill then tacked on the point-after and LA was down by only 4.

When the final quarter opened, Vaughn turned an almost busted play into a 24-yard gain, and a 15-yard late hit penalty moved the ball to the 6. On the next play, Cates drove around the left end, then dove over the goal line to put the Wildcats on top for the first time of the night, 16-14. Again McGill was true, and the lead was 3.

But Catholic was not through. The Irish drove 63 yards on their next possession, and again went on top after a 4-yard run by Harrison Smith. With 5:45 remaining in the game, the Wildcats trailed 17-20.

Lineman Jacob Coffee later said, "I didn't care what was on the score board. This team had played too hard and come too far to lose now."

After seven plays, Cates rolled to his left at the 31 yard line, saw daylight, and raced to the endzone for what would be the winning score. Again McGill was true on the point-after, and 1 minute and 54 seconds later, there was celebration on the Wildcats sideline.

Catholic had one last shot. Starting at their 32, the Irish launched four straight passes, and all failed. The big play for LA came on 4th and 10 when Josh Carwile knocked down a desperation throw that could have ended in a touchdown.

"All I knew was somebody had to knock it down," the sophomore defensive back said. "I came over to help Jake (Reeder), and suddenly the ball was right there and I reached up and hit it."

Game over.

After the game, Assistant Coach Bruce Lamb said, "We have had to come to Knoxville three straight weekends to play, and we have won three straight times here, and we want to thank our fans for all their support.

"Every week we have had as many LA fans in the stands as the home team has had. That says a lot for Livingston and this program. Our fans are as much a part of this team as the players, and we just want to thank them."

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LA basketball teams open season in Pickett invitational

Mac McLeod/OCN Sports
Livingston Academy senior Megan Brown looks for an open Lady Wildcats teammate to pass the ball to in the 66-57 Pickett County Hall of Fame win over Siegel.

By MAC McLEOD, OCN Sports
Despite a pair of losses to open the 2005-06 high school basketball season, Livingston Acad-emy's new boys head coach is not disappointed and was overall pleased with his Wildcats' effort.

"We played two of the best 3A schools in the state," Coach Richard Melton pointed out Saturday evening, "and I thought we gave a good effort in both games.

"We lost to Lebanon by 4 points in a game that could have gone either way. And then we were beaten pretty soundly by Siegel, which is one of, if not the best, 3A team in the state.

"We played with a lot of heart and intensity in both games and even though we were defeated, we played such good teams that it has to help us as we get on down the road."

In Thursday's opening game of the Pickett County Hall of Fame tournament played in Byrdstown, Livingston took on Lebanon in a game that saw the Wildcats fall 81-77. The game stayed close throughout, with the two teams separated by only a single point at intermission.

Freshman Chase Dunn led Livingston with 15 points, and senior Brandon Matthews added 13.

"Lebanon has one of the best shooting guards in the state and his 31 points really killed us," Coach Melton pointed out. "If we could have even slowed him down, we had a really good chance of winning. "Although we start several seniors, we are really an inexperienced team, but playing the type of teams we played this weekend, we are learning fast.

"Early in the season you just try to gain experience, and we got a lot in two games," Melton continued. "I'm certainly not disappointed in an 0-2 start. We could not have gotten the experience we got here in eight hours of practice in our gym."

Saturday's game against Siegel, a 92-70 victory for the Stars, was another good learning experience for the Cats. Siegel was big, strong, and very quick, but despite the advantages, only managed to control the second quarter.

"For three quarters we stayed right with them," Melton said. "We were behind by 2 at the end of the first period and actually outscored them 19-17 in the third period. It was the 27-14 second period that did us in."

In the second period, the Stars came out and hit three quick 3-point shots, and the game was suddenly out of reach. At some points, Siegel led by as many as 20 points, but the Cats continued to fight back and cut the lead to 12 late in the game.

Lance Ruble led Livingston with 21 points, followed by Matthews with 12 and Dunn with 11.

"We'll be just fine," Coach Melton said. "By the time we face Macon County (December 2 at home), we should have all the wrinkles ironed out. That will be what I will consider our first real game. It will start our district schedule, and from there on is where you start putting your record in the bank."

While the boys were taking a couple setbacks, the Lady Cats got their season underway in the opposite direction, upending a strong Siegel team 66-57.

After the game, Lady Wildcats Head Coach Lesley Smith said, "I would have to say I was a little surprised with our win. They (Siegel) are a much bigger team than we are, and they have some talented players, but our girls put on a good performance almost all night and we won.

"We got a little sloppy at points late in the game, but I think we were getting a little tired. But somehow the girls put it back together, and they deserve a lot of credit for doing that.

"Inside we looked good, I thought, and our outside defense was real good. So all in all, we're very pleased with the victory."

On the night, the Lady Cats hit only 40% of their field goal tries, but from the free throw line, hit 20 times.

"Mallie (Stephens) did a real good job, especially in her shooting tonight, and Haley (Mullins) played well inside. She has matured so much in her play, and only had one or two fouls tonight. Ashley (Matthews) and Alison (West) both played their usual good game, and Jada (Ledbetter) gave us some real good effort," Coach Smith added.

Matthews and West led the scoring attack for Livingston with 15 points each, while Stephens added 13, 7 from the free throw line, and Mullins dropped in 12.

Both teams were scheduled to be in action Tuesday night, Nov. 22 back in Byrdstown, but will not play Friday night's scheduled game at Celina because of the high school football playoffs semifinal at Livingston Acad-emy's Tom Davis Stadium.

Next week will be another big test for both teams as they travel to Cookeville on Tuesday, Nov. 29, then start district play on Friday, Dec. 2 at home against Macon County.

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