When Friendship Christian signed up for Division II sports a year ago, there should have been a recorded caveat from the original “Star Trek” television series in which Commander teams will boldly go where no FCS squads have gone before.
The football team will board the Starship Enterprise – make that a chartered bus – for its first trip to Memphis [other FCS sports have played in the Bluff City] after going to Chattanooga and other East Tennessee environs through the years.
The Commanders’ first planet – that is, school - will be St. George’s Independent School in Collierville. Fans who make the journey to Friday’s 7 p.m. D-II quarterfinal game should be advised if they pass Briarcrest, they are on the right road. St. George’s is a short distance away.
The Gryphons football team is also a largely unknown entity to Friendship Nation.
“There are a few schools we’re just getting to know in Division II, and they’re one of them,” Commander coach John McNeal said. “I saw them when they beat [University School of Jackson] in the state championship game a couple of years ago.”
Here’s what McNeal does know about the 7-3 Gryphons, who have won six straight:
“They have good athletes,” he said. “They have good size. They have good speed.
“They run the spread. They do run [the ball]. It’s not spread throw it everywhere. They probably spread it a little more than we do. They usually have three or four receivers out.
“They’ve rolled off some pretty big scores. They’ve put up a lot of points [55, 62, 46 and 44] the last four weeks. They beat Harding 46-7.”
By point of comparison, Friendship knocked off Harding 51-33 in last Friday’s first round. The Commanders will return to Memphis next August to open the season at Harding.
“Sometimes scores are deceiving with different teams,” said McNeal, whose 9-2 Commanders will carry a seven-game winning streak to Shelby County. “It’s hard to compare. I just don’t have any history with them so it’s hard with me.”
Should Friendship win, McNeal may have something to compare to should Donelson Christian knock off host Battle Ground Academy as DCA would come to Pirtle Field for semifinal rematch of a Week 8 51-48 thriller won by the Commanders. BGA would play at home with a Wildcat win.
Division II quarterfinal game
FRIENDSHIP CHRISTIAN at St. George’s, 7 p.m.