Knoxville Catholic HS president “disappointed” football rivalry discontinued

Dan McWilliams Diocese of Knoxville, News, Schools

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Catholic quarterback Zac Janzek drops back to pass against Webb on Oct. 23.

The Knoxville Catholic High School football rivalry with Webb School of Knoxville is coming to an end after the Spartans decided to call a halt to the series last week.

KCHS President Dickie Sompayrac said the school community is both surprised and disappointed by Webb’s decision, which was reported by local media Nov. 15. The two schools have played each other in football virtually every year since the early 1960s.

“This is disappointing for several reasons,” Mr. Sompayrac said. “I believe our rivalry has been healthy with Webb School, and we were surprised to find out this information via text last Thursday [Nov. 13]. I have reached out to Webb’s interim president, Kirk Walker, but have not heard back from him.

“We have tremendous respect for their community, and so many of our kids have grown up together. The rivalry is intense, but that is part of what makes it special. I just thought we would have received a call from someone in their administration before this was made public.”

The series’ end will also halt a major fundraiser benefiting Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee.

“It is also disheartening that our Second Harvest High School Football Challenge with Webb will end,” Mr. Sompayrac said. “Over the last two years, the two schools have donated over 160,000 pounds of canned foods, creating over 240,000 meals for the needy here in East Tennessee. We will certainly still support Second Harvest; we just pray that their decision to end our rivalry does not adversely affect the thousands helped by the food drive.”

Webb athletics director and football head coach David Meske said in a statement, according to news reports, that “Webb administration has decided this is not a healthy relationship for our community. It will be fun for Webb school to play other area schools in football.”

Mr. Meske told the Knoxville News Sentinel that “the administration at Webb just decided it hasn’t been a positive relationship within our community. We’ll sit back and take a break and play other people for a couple of years.”

Mr. Meske said Webb has not made a decision to drop Catholic from its other sports’ schedules, according to the News Sentinel report.

KCHS topped Webb 24-6 on Oct. 23 in the televised game of the week for the Irish’s first win over the Spartans since 2008. The Irish went on to finish 10-2 after a 51-14 second-round playoff loss to defending state champion and nationally ranked Fulton. The other KCHS loss was to Alcoa.

Christian Academy of Knoxville, which played the Irish in 2013 and 2014, also dropped KCHS from its football schedule, the News Sentinel reported.

Mr. Meske told the News Sentinel that a break in the Irish-Spartan football series in the 1990s was instituted at Knoxville Catholic’s request. The two schools did not meet on the gridiron from 1993 through 1996, the first hiatus in the series since 1970-71.

“At that point in time, they decided to take a break from playing us,” Mr. Meske said. “We respected their decision at that time, and hopefully this time they will respect our decision to take a break from playing them.”