SMYRNA — When Friendship Christian fell behind Pope John Paul in the first game of the Division II boys state bowling final Saturday, the Commanders had the Knights right where they wanted them.
The Commanders climbed out of that 6-2 hole to claim their first championship in the sport, and as a D-II member, 19-8 at Smyrna Bowling Center.
“They answered the call,” second-year Commander coach Mark Strickland said after finishing a 21-1 season. “These guys really like the competition and they really like to step up to a challenge.
“Everyone of our guys stepped up in the second game and kept up the pressure in the third game.”
Donny Turner, a sophomore transfer from Donelson Christian, led Friendship’s 8-0 win in the second game with a 190. He followed with a 189 in the 6-2 final. He was also named a TSBPAA Mr. Bowler of the Year finalist in D-II.
Also in the lineup were Cole Buttrey, Luke Shoulders, Nick Norton, Drew Porth and Jacob Haskins.
This marks the school’s eighth TSSAA championship, seven of which have come over the last three years. All of the previous titles came in Division I. FCS has two titles each in baseball, football and volleyball and one in boys’ basketball.
The Commanders joined the 2010 Wilson Central boys and girls and 2002 and '03 Mt. Juliet girls [the first two years TSSAA sanctioned the sport] as bowling champions from Wilson County.
“It is more than I can describe,” Strickland said of the emotions of winning a championship. “I am normally not speechless, but it’s exciting, it’s unexpected. But more than that, it’s a little overwhelming and I’m just glad to be here.”
The team’s motto was “Fear the pants” as each team member wore different colored shorts to go with their green FCS tops.
“It started in the beginning of the season,” Strickland said. “In the beginning, we didn’t have team colored shorts. It was September and all the boys wore different-colored shorts to school. They just put on their jersey. So they started making it their thing. After our first win, they said, ‘They need to fear our ugly pants’.”
Strickland and assistant Jon Shoulders, also the school president, wanted to thank Pro Bowl West, which became the Commanders’ home alley again this season after the team rolled its home matches in Gallatin last year. PBW’s Allen Slaughter is another FCS assistant coach.
“We are so grateful that Pro Bowl West has come back and been a great supporter of ours and have allowed Allen Slaughter to be an incredible part of the coaching team,” Strickland said. “It’s huge [having the home alley in town]. For me especially as a guidance counselor, I don’t have time to travel and it would take 20-25 minutes to Gallatin. The seven-minute trip over to Pro Bowl West was huge for us.”