Friendship Christian will make a grab for the gold football Saturday as the Commanders take on Dresden in the Class 2A BlueCross Bowl. Kickoff is set for 12 Noon at Tennessee Techs Tucker Stadium. Live television coverage is available locally on WNPT, Channel 8.
The Commanders come in 11-3 overall and have won seven games in a row since a Sept. 29 loss at Trousdale County.
After trouncing Jackson County 42-0 at home in the first round of the playoffs, Coach John McNeal has won three consecutive road games, including a 39-6 victory at Oliver Springs last week.
Its a really good time of the year to be playing good football, McNeal said. Youve got to play well to get here, and youve got to play that way in the finals if you want to have a shot at the championship.
Friendship Christian is back in the state finals some five years after losing 19-13 to Jackson Christian in the 2006 title game held at Middle Tennessee State.
FCS has been knocked out in the second round each year since 06.
Dresden (12-2) has relished the underdog role all season, knocking out four consecutive road wins in the playoffs to reach the title game for the first time in school history.
On defense, they fly to the football, McNeal said of Dresden, Theyre aggressive, they come at you from all angles. Theyre not big, but quick and scrappy.
Offensively, they spread it out with the intention of running the football. It starts with their quarterback whos really good.
The Lions are under the direction of head coach Scott Hewett, who is in his final year at the Dresden helm after he announced his resignation in September effective when the Lions season ends because of a rule in the Weakley County school system prohibiting administrators from coaching.
It would be a great way to go out, Hewett said during Mondays TSSAA media event.
But I want it more for these kids out there playing. Theyve put in a lot of work, and Im just glad to be a small part of what theyve accomplished this year.
Hewett is impressed with his look at Friendship on film.
Theyre solid all the way around, Hewett said, They only threw like five passes last week, but completed em all and three were for touchdowns thats pretty impressive. Theyve got a heck of a ground game. Their execution is awfully good.
This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for our kids, and weve got to make sure they understand the focus theyll need on Saturday.
Dresden quarterback Gatlin Hatchel is among the Lions senior class who will be playing their final game for the Lions as well tomorrow, and he said they want the coach and the seniors to go out with a win.
Its something we definitely want for him and us, Hatchel said. Wed love for all of us to go out as winners.
BlueCross notes Advance tickets are $12 each and available at the FCS main office. A portion of advance ticket sales will stay with the local school.
There is no free parking in the lots closest to Tucker Stadium. Parking will run $8 per vehicle.
The FCS Dresden game will be followed by the Class 4A game at 3:30 p.m. between Greeneville and Nashville Maplewood.
The 6A game will kickoff at 7 p.m. and features 14-0 Memphis Whitehaven vs. 14-0 Maryville.
Fridays schedule at Tucker Stadium: South Pittsburg takes on Wayne County in the Class 1A title game at 12 Noon followed by Christian Academy of Knoxville and Milan in the Class 3A matchup at 3:30 with Powell and Henry County squaring off in the Class 5A championship at 7 p.m.
By TOMMY BRYAN, sports editor