ANDY TELLI, Hendersonville Standard
August 19, 2017
Coming off their most successful season in a decade, the Pope John Paul II Knights got their 2017 season off to a quick start with a 42-0 road win over Whites Creek on Friday.
“A win is always a positive thing,” JPII Coach Justin Geisinger said. “Putting a one in the win column was our first goal.”
Senior running back Nolan Underhill led JPII’s offense, scoring four touchdowns — including three on the ground and one on a reception — to go with his 23 carries and 186 yards rushing.
Underhill credited the JPII offensive line, which is anchored by the only two returning starters on offense (tackles Jake Motz and Ed Agholor) with his success.
“They were really opening up the holes for me,” Underhill said. “You can’t ask for more than that.”
“We ran the ball very well at times,” Geisinger added. “The offensive line played well. They’re our most experienced group. We’re going to rely on those guys all year.”
JPII rushed for 357 yards total and passed for another 84. But the offense also looked sloppy at times, losing two fumbles and having several bad snaps, according to Geisinger.
“We’ll have to correct that,” he said. “If you do things like that against teams in our region, it’s going to be difficult to win.”
JPII has set a higher standard in recent years and the players understand the challenges they face.
“They know the expectations of this program,” Geisinger added.
A stout effort from the Knights’ defense kept the Cobras out of the end zone and limited them to only two first downs all game.
“Defensively, we had a great showing tonight,” Geisinger stated. “Guys were doing their job. This team is more disciplined than what we’ve had before. The guys are young but it’s all 11 guys working together. That’s what’s great about football.”
After forcing Whites Creek to punt on the first possession of the game, the Knights took over on their own 36-yard line and quickly marched down the field – scoring their first touchdown of the night on a 1-yard run by Underhill with 6:19 to go in the first.
JPII forced another punt, taking over its own 38.
The 11-play drive, highlighted by a 19-yard run from junior quarterback Ben Nixon and an 11-yard pass reception by sophomore Rory White, was capped off by a 7-yard touchdown run by senior Theo Onaghinor.
With 7:07 left in the second quarter, JPII scored on a 10-yard run by Underhill to cap a 9-play, 78-yard drive. Onaghinor gained 52 yards on five carries during the drive, and finished the game with 109 yards on 13 carries.
In the third, JPII’s first two drives were stopped by fumbles. But with 1:55 left in the quarter, they scored on a 22-yard run by Underhill. He scored again — his fourth of the night — on a 16-yard screen pass from Nixon with 7:20 left. Holding a 35-0 lead, the running clock started.
“We were moving the ball really well at times,” Motz said. “We were getting after it.”
“We’re up for the challenge. We’ve got a lot of great guys ready to step up.”
“We have a lot of people hungry for action on the varsity level,” Underhill added.
JPII will host Lipscomb Academy next Friday. Lipscomb has made the move to Division II this year, but is playing in Class AA, while JPII is in Class AAA.
“That’s going to be a dog fight,” Geinsinger said. “Defensively, we’ve got to be very sound. Offensively, we’ve got to clean up our sloppiness.”
“We have to play with a lot more intensity,” Underhill added. “We’re obviously going to stick to the game plan.”