Pope John Paul

Pope John Paul II's Brooks Heagarty, right, embraces his teammate Logan Penhollow at the end of Friday night's game as quarterback Sawyer Watts looks on. Pope John Paul II defeated Father Ryan 28-17.

The Bishop’s Cup isn’t going anywhere.

The prize will stay with Pope John Paul II High School for another year thanks to a 28-17 victory over host Father Ryan in the annual showdown between Nashville’s two Catholic high schools. It’s the fourth year in a row the Knights have bested the Irish for the Cup.

While the past few entries in the series between JPII (3-1, 1-0 DII-AAA West Region) and Father Ryan (1-3, 0-2) have been filled with drama, a series of big plays by the Knights at pivotal moments helped JPII avoid the need for any last-minute heroics on Friday night.

“We know this game is always going to be a hard-fought game, an emotional game, and our kids were resilient. I feel like we’re building something special here,” JPII head coach Justin Geisinger said. “We expect to make big plays. Football is a game of ups and downs, and we were just able to make a few more plays than they were tonight and capitalize on that momentum.”

With JPII hanging on to a 7-3 lead late in the second quarter, Father Ryan took over on offense with a chance to take the lead going into halftime. Instead, the Knights put pressure on Irish quarterback D.C. Tabscott and as he tried to throw the ball away in the backfield, JPII’s Brandon Shockley came away with an interception and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown with two minutes left in the second quarter.

The Irish fought back, finding the end zone on their first drive of the second half. Receiver Parker Erdman took a short pass from Tabscott, dodging defenders down the sideline on his way to a 48-yard touchdown play to cut the Knights’ lead down to 14-10.

JPII responded quickly on the ensuing drive, marching down the field thanks to running back Antwan Roberts, who muscled his way into the end zone from the 1-yard line after putting the Knights there with a 35-yard run on the previous play. The Knights leaned heavily on Roberts throughout the game, and it paid off in a big way—the power back finished the night with 195 rushing yards and a touchdown on 29 carries.  

“The run game is our bread and butter—you have to be able to run the ball to open up the rest of the offense, so that was big,” Roberts said. “And when you can spread the ball around like we can, it opens up a lot of the playbook.”

A few minutes later, JPII wide receiver Rory White gave the Knights their largest lead of the game, taking a short pass from quarterback Sawyer Watts and dashing 77 yards for a touchdown to give JPII a 28-10 lead with 4:15 left in the third quarter. White touched the ball sparingly, but he made each moment count, finishing with 135 receiving yards on just three receptions.

The Irish ran their offense through Tabscott, who completed 19 of his 35 passes and finished with 207 passing yards and two touchdowns. He also made some big plays with his legs, adding 98 rushing yards on eight carries. But he also through two costly interceptions, and in the end his performance wasn’t enough to keep Father Ryan from losing their third straight game of the season.

JPII will look to keep the momentum going on the road in Memphis against Christian Brothers High on Sept. 20, while the Irish will be on the hunt for their second win of the season in a regional matchup at Brentwood Academy.

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