It did not take long for Catholic to get it going in Cookeville on Thursday night.
Senior wide receiver Dashon Bussell hauled in a 16-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Jack Sompayrac on the opening drive of the game, and the Fighting Irish never looked back, cruising to a 45-28 victory over Beech to win the Class 5A state championship in the BlueCross Bowl at Tennessee Tech’s Tucker Stadium.
It is the program’s third state championship and second in three years.
That Bussell score was the first in what would be seven-consecutive scoring drives — excluding the one-play drive to end the first half — to begin the game.
The Western Michigan commit reeled in three catches for 62 yards and two touchdowns, while his quarterback completed 10 of his 14 passes for 162 yards. Sompayrac also rushed for 50 yards and two scores.
Senior running back Joshua Brown carried the ball 14 times for 99 yards and a touchdown, while senior Joe Fluker added 81 yards on 10 totes.
Thursday was redemption for a disappointing end to last season when a team that featured multiple Division-I prospects was ousted by Fulton in the second round.
Catholic lost three times in the first six games, leaving some to wonder whether they were capable of winning a state title after losing stars Amari Rodgers and Chase Kuerschen, who now play at Clemson and Tulane, respectively.
The Fighting Irish, however, have dominated since then, winning nine games in a row by an average margin of 29 points per game en route to a Gold Ball.
Leaving home: The No. 1 prospect in the state of Tennessee announced narrowed down his college decision down to three schools via Twitter following Catholic’s victory, and neither are Tennessee.
The senior offensive lineman will be choosing between Georgia, Clemson and Ohio State.
Mays decommitted from Tennessee on Nov. 7 amid a disappointing season in which the Vols went 4-8 (0-8 SEC) and fired head coach Butch Jones. He had been committed since July 13, 2015.
The 6-foot-6, 318-pound lineman told 865 Preps before the season that he planned to sign on Dec. 20, the first of the new early signing period instituted this season, and that continues to be the plan. UT has yet to hire Jones’ replacement and fired athletic director John Currie on Friday.