LEBANON -- Talk about redemption.
Senior Michael Hawks made up for two earlier drops with a circus grab on the back line of the end zone with just two seconds left for the game winner as Friendship Christian rallied for an improbable 52-49 victory over Donelson Christian Friday at Pirtle Field.
"That's what good players do," said FCS coach John McNeal, "they forget about the bad plays and come up big when the game is on the line."
With the win, the Commanders improved to 6-2 overall / 3-1 in District 1-A and locked up a first round home game in the D-II playoffs.
The Wildcats slipped to 6-2 / 2-2 with the loss and are destined to visit Shelby County for a first round playoff game.
Leading 24-21 at intermission, Friendship surrendered scoring plays of 69 and 75 yards by Nathaniel Stewart on DCA's first two offensive snaps of the third quarter -- giving the Wildcats a quick 35-24 lead.
The contest then ping-ponged back and forth until there was 4:46 left in the final quarter as DCA's Will Reddick connected with tight end Alec Pratt on a 30-yard touchdown pass to give their team a 49-45 lead.
Friendship answered with a 13-play, 60 yard touchdown drive that ended with A.J. Long connecting with hawks on a fourth and goal pass from the 17 yard line.
"I was in the slot and running a wheel," Hawks said. "I just broke it along the back line and A.J. threw it high enough for me to jump up and get it. That one right there made up for those two misses."
With the TD pass to Hawks, Long accounted for six Commander scores, including five rushing touchdowns on runs of 29, 3, 2, 7 and 95 yards.
Halfback Steven Hollis opened the scoring with a 72 yard run on Friendship's second play from scrimmage and added runs of 50 and 59 yards to set up touchdowns.
"Our backs, Hollis and (Austin) Taylor, along with A.J. made some plays once they got into the second level turning maybe a 20 yard gain into 40, 50 or more yards," McNeal said. "A lot of great effort by the line to get them into the secondary.
"I'm proud that our guys didn't get down after DCA had those runs early in the third quarter. We responded with a 97 yard scoring drive and I think that showed everybody that we weren't going away."