POSSUMTOWN – In the aftermath of Friday night’s rematch of the 2018-Division IIA state championship game, perspective was everything.
Friendship Christian, playing at home, had the opportunity to avenge its Nov. 30, 2018 BlueCross Bowl 39-27 loss to Davidson Academy.
It didn’t happen. Davidson Academy’s Bears forged a hard-fought 30-23 win over the Commanders to even their record at 2-2. Friendship, meanwhile, slipped to 3-2 as it heads to King’s Academy next Friday night.
But, while Friendship coach John McNeal didn’t get a lot of the things he wanted from his team – winning and improved play primary among them – the rematch did provide an opportunity for the Commanders to learn from their mistakes, and McNeal cited some of them among the reasons that Friendship Christian lost.
“We made too many mistakes. It wasn’t a lack of effort,” McNeal said, “but you can’t give up plays like we did. We made mistakes that we should be doing.
“The four turnovers we had [two interceptions and two lost fumbles] may not have resulted in points for Davidson, but that’s not the point. They disrupted our flow. They stopped what we were doing to that when we got the ball back, we had to start up again. You do those kind of things, and you are lucky you only lose by seven points.”
Davidson Academy coach Jonathan Quinn found more of a positive outlook for his Bears after seeing them win their second-straight game.
“We beat the leader on the other side,” Quinn told his team, noting Friendship was the Eastern Division leader in Division IIA
“We knew it would be a hard game. We knew we would have to grind and grind and grind because that’s a good football team, but we stayed after it to the very end, and I’m proud of the way you played.”
The backdrop for the game was much different than the title game of last November. Both teams had quarterbacks who were not preseason projections for their starting signal-caller roles. Each was forced to move from running back to quarterback because each team’s starter was sidelined with an injury.
However, that didn’t take away from each team’s competitiveness. Each quarterback was his team’s leading rusher – Friendship’s Justin Seagraves picked up three touchdowns with 126 yards on 14 carries, and Davidson’s Bryce Rawls scored one touchdown and gained 58 yards on 16 carries.
Seagraves was reasonably effective as a passer, completing 5-of-11 for 92 yards and a score. Rawls, however, was far more productive, completing 12-of-20 for 231 yards and three touchdowns, including a pair to senior A.J. Quinn, the head coach’s son.
“Bryce and I have been playing together for a long time, and we’ve been throwing the football around so long that we tend to understand each other and read each other well,” A.J. Quinn said.
For his part, Rawls was excited his team played with the grit and determination it needed.
“We knew that after our game last year, Friendship Christian would be after us. We have a target on our backs. And we knew that we would have to play hard,” he said.
“I was pressured some, but most of what I was able to do was because the line protected me. I’ve only had one start as a quarterback, and our team took care of me.”
McNeal wasn’t totally enthused about his team’s leadership, particularly among upperclassmen.
“I know what the coaches can do, but I want out seniors to takes some responsibility and help in developing this tam,” he said. “What we do as coaches is good, but when the game is being played, the boys on the field have to step up and lead.”
Friendship had its chances in the back-and-forth battle. It took a 7-0 lead on Seagraves’ 66-yard first-quarter touchdown run and Neill Kane’s successful PAT kick. But three plays later, Davidson tied the game at 7-7 when Rawls threw a 71-yard scoring strike to Jaiden Rice,
Both teams added another touchdown before the half, but a missed PAT opportunity left Davidson up 14-13 at intermission.
A Kane field goal boosted Friendship into a 16-14 lead, only to see Davidson go up 22-16 on an eight-play, 57-yard drive that culminated in a 9-yard run by Rawls.
Friendship edged 23-22 on Seagraves 14-yard run and Kane’s PAT with 3:39 remaining, but it couldn’t hold the lead. Davidson drove 80 yards on 14 plays, with Rawls’ 17-yard pass to Quinn, and a two-point conversion pass by Rawls that gave the Bears their final margin.