The Briarcrest Christian School Saints of Memphis dominated the line of scrimmage in claiming a road region win on Friday against the Pope John Paul II Knights, 40-7.
The Saints held JPII to 104 yards of total offense for the game, while racking up 435 yards of offense for themselves, including 256 on the ground and 179 through the air.
“We knew Briarcrest was a loaded team up front as far as size,” JPII Coach Justin Geisinger said of the Saints who have two 300-pounders on the line and a third lineman who weighs 280. “They have good Division I talent up there.”
“Our line is thin and young,” with three sophomores starting against Briarcrest and starting center Zac Rush leaving the game with an injury, Geisinger said. “We’re going to have to grow these young guys up fast.”
On defense Briarcrest was able to bottle up JPII junior running back Antwan Roberts who had scored six touchdowns in the first two games. Against the Saints, he was held to 39 yards rushing on 13 carries.
“They took away our run game,” Geisinger said, forcing the Knights to go to the pass more than they had hoped. JPII quarterback Sawyer Watts completed 6 of 19 passes with one interception.
Briarcrest opened the scoring with a 79-yard run by Marlon Hampton with 3 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Saints scored twice more in the first half on a 2-yard run by quarterback Michael Dallas and a 1-yard run by running back Jabari Small as time ran out in the second quarter to give Briarcrest a 21-0 lead at the half.
In the second half, Briarcrest scored on a 41-yard pass from Dallas to Reggie Neely, another 1-yard run by Small and a 64-yard run by Dallas.
Dallas led Briarcrest with 92 yards rushing and two touchdowns on nine carries. He completed 15 of 28 passes for 174 yards and one score.
JPII’s only offensive spark came from Roberts’ 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
The Knights’ lackluster performance started with a subpar week of practice leading up to the game, Geisinger said.
“That starts with me,” Geisinger said.
“I think it was a wake-up call for our guys and our coaches,” Geisinger said of his team’s performance in their first loss of the season.
“I think we have a senior group that’s been through the ringer before,” he said. “They’ve dealt with adversity like this before and have responded before.”
Next Friday, JPII travels to rival Father Ryan as the two Catholic schools will play for the Bishop’s Cup.
“We know they’re going to play hard,” Geisinger said of Father Ryan. “They’re better than they were last year.
“We know what the atmosphere for that game is going to be,” he added. “There will be a lot of emotion for that game.”
JPII’s record is now 2-1 and 0-1 in the Division II-AAA West Region. Briarcrest improved to 3-0 and 1-0 in the region.