MEMPHIS — Perhaps proving the superiority of East Region football in TSSAA Division II-AAA, a 6-5 Knoxville Catholic team traveled more than 350 miles west and outplayed a No. 1-seeded Memphis University School team (9-1) in a state quarterfinal game Friday, Nov. 9.
Junior kicker Gavin Menard capped off the 31-28 Irish upset of MUS with the game-winning 24-yard field goal on the contest’s last play, placing KCHS (7-5) in the semifinals at Chattanooga Baylor (9-2) beginning at 7 p.m. EST, Friday, Nov. 16.
The winner plays the survivor of Montgomery Bell Academy (5-6) versus McCallie (10-1) in the title game at Chattanooga’s Finley Stadium at 7 p.m. EST, Thursday, Nov. 30.
Outgunning the home team 452 versus 327, Catholic’s air assault featured junior quarterback Jaylon Neal completing 34 of 40 passes for 394 yards and three touchdown tosses with no interceptions.
Neal hit Tyreek King on a 65-yard TD strike to put Catholic up 14-7 with 1:46 left in the first quarter. The KCHS sophomore receiver ended with nine catches for 159 yards and two touchdowns.
Braylon Harmon, Irish senior running back, opened the game’s scoring with a 14-yard run to the end zone less than five minutes into the opening quarter. Though never getting into the end zone with a reception, Harmon hauled in 17 Neal aerials for 152 yards.
MUS tied it 7-7 on a 67-yard touchdown pass.
After King’s long scoring catch, the home team recorded scoring passes of 33 and 23 yards to go ahead 21-14, the last coming with 1:18 left in the first half.
Quincy Pannell’s 14-yard scoring catch from Neal tied the game 21-21 at the 9:08 mark of the third quarter.
The Owls shocked the Irish thanks to a 91-yard punt return with 3:11 left in the third. But Catholic struck back — and quickly.
Needing just 63 seconds to tie things up again, Neal found King for a 38-yard touchdown reception. Menard’s final of four extra points tied the issue 28-28 at the 2:08 mark of the third.
The Irish also won this game and still lost the turnover battle, though KCHS had only one, a lost fumble, with MUS turnover free despite the loss.
Three Irish defenders shared the lead in total tackles with six: senior linebacker Bryson Gardner (five solo), senior linebacker Connor Ruth (four solo) and senior defensive back Jaylon Harmon.
All three of defensive lineman Brenden Goodson’s tackles were for negative yardage. Senior Grayson Goodale recorded a sack.