Commanders close 9-3 overall --

LEBANON -- Friendship Christian stumbled over a familiar hurdle in its pursuit of a third consecutive berth in the Division II-A state championship game, losing to Davidson Academy 27-10 in the Friday, Nov. 22 semifinals at Pirtle Field.

It was the third time in the past 13 games that the teams have played and the Bears (10-2) have won all three meetings, including last season’s state final. Davidson Academy also beat Friendship Christian (9-3) 30-23 on Sept. 20 on the Commanders’ home field. Friendship Christian followed up that loss with a six-game winning streak. 

“I don’t think any coach has a speech for a last game like this,” said Friendship Christian head coach John McNeal, whose team lost a state semifinal for the first time. “Our seniors made a legacy for what Friendship Christian football is all about.”

McNeal had probably his most unusual 36 hours before kickoff as his son and daughter-in-law had the coach’s first grandchild Friday. McNeal went with them to St. Thomas Hospital in Nashville on Thursday, returned to Lebanon for football practice that afternoon, went back to the hospital at 6 a.m. on Friday and left the hospital around 3 p.m. to prepare for the game. His grandson was born at 4:30 p.m. Friday.

The coach said he spoke to his son on a video chat to get updates about the birth.

The game began nearly as unusual. A delay of game penalty on the kicker before the opening kickoff (the play clock expired), Jackson Eskew’s 25-yard return and a facemask penalty set up the Commanders at the Davidson Academy 30. On the second play, Jaheim Robinson took a snap in a Wildcat formation and ran 36 yards for the touchdown.

Robinson was the leading rusher for Friendship Christian with 61 yards on 10 carries.

Davidson Academy, which takes a 10-game winning streak into the state championship game, scored on its first possession. Running back Griffin Swinea carried the ball six times on the eight-play drive, scoring on a 1-yard run. Friendship Christian blocked the PAT and led 7-6 midway through the first quarter.

The Bears got the ball at their own 37 after a 57-yard punt from Friendship Christian’s Neill Kane from his own 5. Three plays later quarterback Bryce Rawls and tight end AJ Quinn completed a 38-yard touchdown pass to give Davidson Academy a 13-7 lead with 7:57 left in the second quarter. The Bears never trailed again.

Six minutes later, Rawls and Quinn completed another scoring pass, this one for 15 yards, to give the Bears a 20-7 lead. Rawls completed a pass for 35 yards on third-and-10 to keep the drive going. Rawls and Quinn combined for two touchdown passes in the regular-season game.

Kane gave the Commanders their final points of the game on the last play of the first half, kicking a 41-yard field goal that cleared the crossbar by at least 5 yards. Friendship Christian trailed 20-10 at halftime.

On the first snap of the second half, Caleb Bridges recovered a fumble to give the Commanders the ball at the Davidson Academy 29. The drive ended when Kane’s 21-yard field goal attempt was wide.

The Commanders had the ball inside the Bears’ 30 twice in the third quarter but did not score. The Friendship Christian defense kept providing opportunities to rally, allowing Davidson Academy a net of 2 yards in the third quarter.

Friendship Christian rushed 33 times for 132 yards. Twelve of the rushing plays either gained zero yards or lost yardage.

Justin Seagraves added 57 yards rushing on 18 carries. In the regular-season game, Seagraves had rushed for 126 yards and three touchdowns.

Seagraves and Drew Porter combined to complete 6-of 15 passes for 61 yards and two interceptions. A couple of passes that likely would have produced a touchdown or a long gain were thrown just out of the receivers’ reach.

“They knew that we struggle to throw the ball,” McNeal said. “We are not a spread-it-out, throw-the-ball kind of team. Our defense played lights out tonight, but we just couldn’t get it done offensively tonight.”

Davidson Academy’s second interception set up Swinea’s 27-yard run for a touchdown with 5:33 remaining in the game.

Seagraves, Robinson, wide receiver Dorian Champion and lineman Ryan Jackson (an Eastern Kentucky commitment) are some of the seniors for the Commanders.

Davidson Academy 6 14 0 7 -- 27

Friendship Christian 7 3 0 0 -- 10

FCS – Jaheim Robinson 36 run (Neill Kane kick)

DA – Griffin Swinea 1 run (Kick blocked)

DA – AJ Quinn 38 pass from Bryce Rawls (Kyle Sweeten kick)

DA – Quinn pass from Rawls (Sweeten kick)

FCS – Kane 41 field goal

DA – Swinea 27 run (Sweeten kick)

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