Irish firepower sends Briarcrest back home a 49-24 loser

KNOXVILLE — Knoxville Catholic and Memphis Briarcrest Christian had not played in 20 years before Friday night, Sept. 15, and it might take 20 more years for Briarcrest to want to play them again.

Meeting in a non-region game, Catholic (4-1) beat Briarcrest easily, 49-24, led by senior running back Braylon Harmon’s three touchdowns — all on plays of at least 60 yards — and junior quarterback Jayden Neal, who threw four touchdown passes.

Neal threw for 280 first-half yards, and Harmon had 140 all-purpose yards by halftime.

The lone bright spot for Briarcrest was the running of JoJo Saleem, who ran for 140 yards, including a nifty 60-yard scoring run in the first quarter.

The Irish pass rush pressured Briarcrest quarterback Cade Carlson into having to get rid of the ball with short pass attempts.

Both teams combined for four touchdowns in the first quarter. Neal’s pass to Tyree King, who is being courted by several Division I-A colleges, for a 64-yard touchdown only 1:17 into the game, began the scoring. Briarcrest answered four minutes later on Saleem’s TD run, but the remainder of the quarter belonged to Catholic.

Harmon took the ensuing kickoff 91 yards to the end zone, making the score 14-7. Neal hooked up with Harmon on a 59-yard scoring pass play, increasing the lead to 21-7 after one quarter.

Briarcrest moved the ball to the Catholic 15 but fumbled, and KCHS recovered. Catholic’s offense marched down the field on three passes to King, a 25-yard toss to Harmon and an 11-yard  pass to sophomore Casen Jenkins, moving the ball to Briarcrest 9. Neal then found senior running back Quincy Pannell wide open in the end zone to make the score 28-7 at the seven-minute mark of the second quarter.

After the visitors missed a field goal, Catholic marched 80 yards for another touchdown. Neal ran for 13 yards and Harmon caught a 15-yard pass before King caught his second touchdown of the game on a 5-yard pass from Neal. After a Briarcrest field goal, the half ended 35-10.

Harmon returned a punt 80 yards for his third touchdown in two-and-a-half quarters.

A 78-yard pass from Neal to Casen Jenkins with 33 seconds remaining in the third quarter made it 49-17. After a 40-yard  kickoff return by Saleem, the quarter ended at 49-17.

Gavin Menard added seven extra points for the Irish.

“Braylon is an extremely talented player. He works hard on and off the field,” Irish co-head coach Steve Matthews said. “Every time he touches the ball he gives us a chance to score. He was great tonight.” 

“Yes, a fun night,” Harmon said. “I give all my thanks to God, who gives me the power to run.”