KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – It was a dramatic start to the season for Knoxville Catholic football. On just the very first day of practice, the Irish found out that first-year head coach Dean Cokinos wouldn’t be joining the program.

Instead of finding someone new, the Irish went inside its own program and promoted two assistants, Steve Matthews and Philip Shadowens, to interim head coaches.

“He’s running the defensive side of the ball,” said Matthews. “I’m running the offense. To be honest with you, it’s been great. I’m wondering why we didn’t do this a long time ago.”

It’s a homecoming for Steve Matthews who was hired as the Irish offensive coordinator back in February after coaching Catholic from 2013-2020, which included two state championships.

On defense, Philip Shadowens, the former William Blount headman, is in charge.

While they both jump into interim roles, the guy under center for the past two seasons remains, but under a new system.

“It’s been very different than the last two years I’ve been here, but I feel like I’ve been adjusting very well,” said junior quarterback Jayden Neal. “I feel like I have a lot more responsibility.”

“He’s definitely the leader of our team,” added Matthews. “He’s had a great camp. He’s still learning the offense, but I feel like we’re headed in the right direction.”

After finishing last season with a 3-7 record, Neal said there aren’t a lot of expectations for this Catholic squad. However, Neal added the team is looking at that as a positive, using the doubters as motivation to create a team bond the quarterback hasn’t seen in his three years with the program.

The Irish open up the season against Lakeway Christian on Aug. 18 at 7 p.m.