By Steve Williams
I was at the scorer’s table at Alcoa High School, getting the individual scoring, after Knoxville Catholic ’s District 4-AA title win over CAK last week when Catholic assistant coach Tony Scott came over to get the scorebook.
“Tonight’s win was No. 499 for Coach Hutchens,” Scott informed me.
I knew “Hutch” was getting close to the milestone victory. When I went to Catholic High School in mid-January to interview him about his team’s No. 1 ranking in the state, he handed me a small piece of paper before I left with his career coaching record written on it.
I still have our conversation on my tape recorder …
“Is that current,” I quickly asked.
“Yeah, we’re at 488,” answered Mike.
“You’re 12 wins away from the magic number (500).”
“Wow! You can get that this year!”
“Oh boy, I hope we do! If we do, that means we’re probably going to be in the state, and that’s the main thing.”
“When you see this group, you’ll see why I am fond of them. They play as hard as they can play. If you beat us, you’re going to have to beat us. We’re not going to beat ourselves. The chemistry is really great.”
As I write this on Friday, Hutchens’ record is 499-244, and I expect they’ll have a party in addition to a region game against Union County Saturday night at KCHS. There will probably be a huge cake with No. 500 on it. Maybe green and gold icing spread over white angel food cake!
When it comes, No. 500 will be a great milestone, but I can assure you Coach Hutchens is really hoping for No. 506 this season. If he gets to that number, it would mean he and his Irishmen will be celebrating a state championship in Murfreesboro.
Hutchens has been there three times before. But he’s still seeking his first state win and first state crown.
Here’s something else I’ve thought about. This year the Region 2-AA semifinals and championship game will be played at Austin-East High School, just a street over and down the road a couple of miles from Magnolia Avenue and the old Catholic High School, where Hutchens started coaching the Irishmen 28 years ago in 1989.
On your way to A-E, I suggest you drive down Magnolia, Mike, and slowly by the old school. After you pass it, close your eyes for a minute or two and think about games you coached there and the players you had back then. It’s kind of like you’ve come full circle in your coaching career.
Hutchens is a good guy from South Knoxville. He played basketball for George Pitts at Young High and was a quarterback for the late John Clabo and Pete Stafford. He graduated from YHS in 1975.
Mike told me he still remembers when I was the prep editor at The Knoxville Journal in the 1970s and ’80s. That made me feel good and old!
Hutchens and the Irishmen still have hurdles to cross. Union County. Possibly a third meeting of the season with Alcoa in the region semifinals, the most pressure-packed game of them all, in my opinion, on The Road to Murfreesboro. Why? It’s an elimination game.
If you lose in the region finals, you have to go on the road in the sectionals, but you’re still alive.
A matchup between Catholic and perennial state power Fulton in the region finals would be a great show for local high school fans. Maybe Catholic and Fulton both will make it to the ’Boro this year.
Like its basketball team, Catholic’s football team was ranked No. 1 in the state for much of the season this past fall and was expected to repeat as state champions. The Irishmen, however, were upset in the second round.
Hopefully, Coach Hutchens and his team won’t suffer a similar fate.
A Road to Murfreesboro with no bumps would mean win No. 501 in the region semifinals, No. 502 in the region finals, No. 503 in the sectionals, No. 504 in the state quarterfinals, No. 505 in the state semifinals and No. 506 on top of the world!
Irish fans, get your checkoff list ready.