Like two families who live in the same house but never eat together, the bowling teams for Lebanon and Friendship Christian both call Pro Bowl West home.
One week before Thanksgiving, the Blue Devils and Commanders got together for a match on their shared home lanes with Friendship handing both Lebanon teams their first losses of the season. The boys won 23-4 while the girls prevailed 18-9.
But a good time was had by all, perhaps most of all by Allen Slaughter, Pro Bowl West’s general manager who moonlights as an FCS assistant coach.
“This is the first two times these teams have faced each other in over eight years,” Slaughter said. “Because they’re in two different divisions — Division I (Lebanon) and Division II (Friendship) — they won’t face each other competitively. But because of the COVID and the shortage of the schedule, they got together today.”
Players from both schools compete in a Saturday morning league at the alley. It was commonplace Thursday to see players from each side congratulate their opponents when they hit a strike or spare.
“They travel together to tournaments and they practice together,” Slaughter said. “They all know each other very well.”
“We never have an opportunity for our schedules to match up,” Friendship boys’ coach Mark Strickland said. “They love each other. They know each other’s games. We just have a great camaraderie and we love playing against them. We just never get the chance.”
Strickland’s Commanders coach Jon Shoulders’ Lady Commanders routinely see either the Blue Devils or Lady Devils from afar at the Smyrna Bowling Center each January during the TSSAA state championships.
“We root for each other and we’re so pleased there are two great bowling teams here in Wilson County,” Strickland said. “We love pretty much everything about the relationship.
“They know each other’s games. Sometimes they’ll give each other hints or pointers before the match. Somebody was telling somebody something, ‘Hey, you need to move left if you do this. You’ll get that spare’. So it’s a great relationship.”
“This is a friendly match,” Lebanon boys’ coach David Fugate said. “We want to say who’s home it is really, but it’s all of our homes.
“These teams are like brothers. They’re going to cheer on each other no matter what.”
Both Lebanon teams were undefeated coming into Thursday’s matches. Friendship’s boys lost by two pins to Pope John Paul II while the girls have two defeats to Stewarts Creek. The Commanders were coming off a victory over Lipscomb Academy the day before at Tusculum Lanes in Nashville where FCS senior Cole Cottrell bowled his first 300 game, mowing down 21 consecutive strikes.
“They were on fire from last night,” Fugate said of the Commanders. “They just carried over to today.”
Lebanon’s boys closed out their District 12 schedule Tuesday with a 21-6 win over visiting Mt. Juliet at Pro Bowl West. The Blue Devils, who wrapped up their regular season with the Friendship match, will host the district tournament the first week of December. Friendship will go on the road to take on Donelson Christian on Monday before the DII postseason rolls off.
Picking up points for the Commanders were Cottrell with games of 224 and 279; Evan Gordon with 177, 238 and 225; Josy Shulam with 213 and 201, Cole Denney with scores of 213, 194 and 186; Cullen Graves 227 and 175 and John Brooks 255 and 235.
Caleb Gregory, who rolled a 300 game earlier this season for the Blue Devils, and Joshua Cantrell both bowled Game 1 212s. Ryan Norvil notched a 236 third game while Jackson McRae turned in a 186.
In the girls’ match, Friendship’s Presley Martin rolled a 130 in Game 1. Casie Cottrell collected a 145 and Emma Caudill a 114 while sharing a 132 in Game 2. Olivia Rush racked up scores of 158 and 184 while Landry West turned in a 151 and former DII state champion Olivia VanHooser a clean sweep of 149, 212 and 161.
In Tuesday’s Lebanon-Mt. Juliet match, the Golden Bears matched the Blue Devils in the first game with a 4-4 tie before Lebanon took charge in the second to improve its record to 13-0.
Jackson McRae rolled games of 225, 209 and 234 for Lebanon while Ryan Norvil notched scores of 206 and 247, Caleb Gregory 208 and 235, Will Weir 202, Braxton Crook 200 and Joshua Cantrell 190.