FCS locks up home playoff game -

MT. JULIET -- Friendship Christian School put its running game into high gear and kept the pressure on all four Mt. Juliet Christian Academy quarterbacks to likely secure a home playoff game with a 49-13 victory at Mt. Juliet Middle School’s Barry Wilmore Field Friday night.

The top six teams in Division II-A East advance to the playoffs, with the top two teams receiving a first-round bye and the next two teams hosting a first-round playoff game.

The Commanders (5-2 overall, 4-2 in the region) are tied for second place with The King’s Academy, which FCS beat 27-21 earlier this season. FCS, which has won three games in a row, plays its final region game at home next Friday against Webb School.

Unbeaten Donelson Christian Academy has secured the top spot in the region.

“We just have another week of trying to get better. Better tackling. Better blocking and game planning for a region opponent,” Commanders head coach John McNeal said.

MJCA (1-7, 1-4) can advance to the playoffs by winning its last two regular-season games, against Middle Tennessee Christian and at DCA.

“Win our last two games and we are in,” Saints' head coach Dan Davis said. “Run the table. No fuzzy math. That is it. That is what I tell the team.”

FCS, coming off an open week, scored six of its seven touchdowns by running the ball while rushing for 251 yards on 31 carries.

Don Dunning (89 yards on 14 carries) and Drew Porter (81 yards on seven carries) each scored two touchdowns in the first half. FCS completed 1-of-4 pass attempts.

Delanie Majors’ 43-yard punt return three minutes into the second quarter was the only non-rushing TD. It gave FCS a 21-0 lead and helped the Commanders score 28 points in the quarter for a 35-6 halftime lead. Majors also set up Porter’s second touchdown, a 35-yard run, with an interception.

Quarterback Kolby Gaines contributed a 12-yard scoring run midway through the third quarter to start a running clock for the rest of the game. Caleb Bridges set up the scoring drive by partially blocking a punt to give the Commanders the ball on the MJCA 35.

Morgan McGregor scored the Commanders’ final touchdown on a 15-yard run late in the third quarter.

The Saints, who had 23 players in uniform, started the game with some uncertainty at quarterback as starter Christian Link received a leg injury the previous week and did not play against FCS.

Running back Kam Curtis took some direct snaps to start the game. Freshman Brendan Dunn and Noah Kleinmann also played quarterback in the first quarter.

Top lineman Brice Simpson left the game with an injury in the first quarter and wore a walking boot and was on crutches at halftime.

JaMarion Thomas, a wide receiver, played most of the second half at quarterback for the Saints after Curtis limped off the field. Thomas rushed for 47 yards on nine carries and completed 2-of-5 passes (both to Tyler Barnes) for 57 yards.

Barnes had four catches for 119 yards and two touchdowns, one from Curtis in the first half and one from Thomas in the second half.

“What we prepared for defensively wasn't what happened but we did a good job adjusting,” McNeal said.

FCS had 10 tackles for loss and held MJCA to five first downs (two by penalties). The Saints had their first positive-yardage play with just under five minutes to go in the first half when Davis called a fake punt from the MJCA 19. Thomas ran 20 yards for the first down. Barnes then caught a pass that bounced off two players and took the ball to the FCS 28. Barnes caught his first scoring pass on the next play.

Thomas also had one of the Saints three turnovers, an interception in the end zone in the first quarter. FCS lost a fumble in each half.

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