Davidson turns Friendship away at the BlueCross Bowl doorstep

George Page • The Lebanon Democrat

Friendship Christian tight end Andrew Mathis (30) can't reach this pass which fell incomplete during the third quarter.

Davidson Academy got 114 yards rushing and two touchdowns from Griffin Swinea to defeat Friendship Christian 27-10 in the Division II-A semifinals Friday night at Pirtle Field.

It was the third consecutive win by Davidson over Friendship since December 2018.

Our defense played their tails off tonight," said Commander coach John McNeal. "Offensively, we just couldn't find stretches of success."

Also on Friday, Coach McNeal became a grandfather for the first time.

"I stayed there as long as could, but she still had not delivered by the time I left. My son (Chris) then video called me to let me that my grandson was here."

Friendship got off to a good start. After a delay on the opening kickoff, Jackson Eskew returned kick to the Davidson 45-yard line. A facemask penalty moved the ball 15 yards to the 30-yard line. Jaheim Robinson then went 36 yards on the game's second play to give the Commanders a 7-0 lead just 1:37 into the game.

But just like when the two teams met in September, Davidson answered right back. On the legs of Swinea, who did not play in the September meeting, the Bears drove 57 yards in seven plays as he scored from a yard. The extra point was blocked, keeping the score 7-6.

On the next Friendship drive, Davidson's Kelvi Rice intercepted Justin Seagraves and returned the ball deep into Commanders territory. An illegal block during the return brought the ball back to the Bears'23-yard line. After the teams traded punts, Davidson took the lead as quarterback Bryce Rawls connected with tight end AJ Quinn on a 31-yard touchdown, to give Davidson a 13-7 lead.

After another punt by the Commanders, Rawls and Quinn hooked up again, this time from 15 yards out, giving Davidson a 20-7 lead.

The Commanders did mount one final drive before halftime. Neill Kane booted a 41-yard field goal as the first half expired, cutting the Davidson Academy lead to 20-10.

The Commanders got their first break of the game on the opening play of the second half. Rawls was hit and fumbled with Caleb Bridges recovering the ball for Friendship. The Commanders then drove to the Davidson 4-yard line. Facing a fourth-and-goal, McNeal sent Kane out to try a 21-yard field goal, but the attempt was wide left, leaving the score at 20-10 Davidson Academy.

"We knew had to get two scores, and Neill has been great for us all year," said McNeal.

The Commanders' defense then forced the Davidson offense to go backwards on it's next drive, losing 7 yards, and forcing them to punt. The Commander offense again drove deep into Davidson territory, but on fourth-and-nine, Seagraves was stopped a yard short of the first down, turning the ball back over to Davidson.

The Commanders got the ball back at their own 20-yard line with 6:36 remaining. However, on the first play of the drive, Rice got his second interception of the game, Two plays later, Swinea scored his second touchdown, this one from 27 yards to put the game away 27-10.

"We are not a spread-it-out, throw-the-ball everywhere offense," said McNeal. "They know our offense would struggle to throw the ball."

With the loss Friendship ended its season at 9-3. For the seniors, their four-year record is 38-11, including two BlueCross Bowl berths and a state championship.

"I don't think any coach has a speech ready for their last game, but these seniors have state champions, state runner-up, and state semifinalist," McNeal said. "They left a legacy for what Friendship Christian football is all about."

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