LEBANON -- Things haven’t been normal around the Friendship Christian School football offices for several days.
The Commanders were working to rebound from a season-opening loss.
Friday night, however, it was a return to normalcy for Coach John McNeal’s team. A 38-7 victory over Middle Tennessee Christian School was the panacea at the Commanders evened their record at 1-1 and dropped the Cougars to 0-2. It was the first Division II-A game of the season for both teams.
FCS was dominant throughout, building a 38-0 lead and not surrendering a score to MTCS until the 1:15 mark of the fourth quarter.
And most of the dominance was engineered by an unlikely hero – senior quarterback Jonathan Seagraves. In fact, it was just about two weeks ago when he was shoved into the starting QB role after projected starter Camden Hayslip injured a leg in a scrimmage, forcing Seagraves to leave his post at running back.
“He threw some nice passes tonight that he didn’t complete a week ago,” McNeal said. “And one reason is because he went into our first game and began throwing on such short notice that we weren’t able to make the transition.”
Seagraves rushed for 61 yards on 16 carries, not necessarily impressive numbers in and of themselves. However, two of those runs were for touchdowns and several more were for first down yardage that kept drives alive.
“I was more confident in this game,” Seagraves said. “I’ve had more time under center and I’ve thrown the ball in practice. Before (Hayslip) was injured, I hadn’t thrown the ball in practice. I knew the time would come when I would play some quarterback, maybe in the Wildcat, but I wasn’t expecting to be starting games like this.”
Perhaps Seagraves most impressive play was a huge confidence booster that came with 2:34 remaining in the opening quarter. After MTCS punted to FCS at the FCS 20, McNeal called time out and addressed the offensive unit, particular Seagraves.
“I reminded him that the key was going to be the strong safety. He needs to get a good read off of him,” McNeal said.
And while Seagraves may not have gotten the read exactly correct, he unleashed an 80-yard touchdown pass to Dorian Champion, streaking down the left sideline.
“When you don’t hold your blocks or simply miss them, quarterbacks can’t make those plays,” opined McNeal. “We did better tonight dealing those issues, and we got better results.”
Champion’s blistering spring down the sideline after catch wasn’t his only highlight of the night. He collected three passes overall and for 122 yards. His rushing worksheet was equally as impressive, carrying the ball 7 times for 118 yards, including an 87-yard scamper midway of the third quarter, marking the first score of the second half and swelling Friendship Christian’s lead to 24-0.
“I think after we lost the first game of the year, we were hungrier,” Champion said. “We all want to win for each other, to put the team first, and it doesn’t matter who scores.”
With Middle Tennessee Christian receiving the opening kickoff, the Cougars appeared as though that they were going to be able to move the ball almost at will. Senior tailback Kemari Mcgowan, the school’s all-time leading rusher with over 4,500 yards, raced for 32 yards on his first carry and added 12 more on his second. Yet that impressive start quickly met its demise when Champion picked off the Cougars’ first pass attempt.
“That took away the early momentum,” MTCS Coach Fred Shambaugh said. “We’re young and we’ve got a lot of growing to do, and taking care of the football is something we have to do.”
McGowan finished the night with 94 yards on 22 carries, the bulk of the 173 ground yards gained by the Cougars. But as the game progressed, his effectiveness waned as the Commanders made adjustments
“I guess I just need to run harder,” McGowan said. “They took some things away from us.”