HomeSportsBruins stifled in semifinals at Friendship Christian

Bruins stifled in semifinals at Friendship Christian

LEBANON – University School of Jackson had its struggles in all three phases of the game as it fell 24-20 to Friendship Christian in the Division II-A semifinals on Friday.

The Bruins’ season ends with a 10-2 record with their fourth straight appearance in the state semifinals counting two trips to the state championship in 2019-20.

“I know it hurts right now, but you have nothing to hang your heads about,” Bruins head coach Michael Stroup told his team in the postgame meeting. “I thank the seniors for all you’ve done for this program and everyone on this team … thank you.”

Penalties, turnovers, and big plays by Friendship kept USJ from ever taking the lead after the Commanders jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the second quarter.

USJ moved the ball well on the first drive before penalties moved the Bruins back across the 50-yard line and forced them to punt the ball. Friendship responded with a two-play drive in which running back Tyson Wolcott 57-yard run in the first quarter.

After USJ turned it over and gave Friendship a short field, the Bruins’ defense held and forced the Commanders to try a 26-yard field goal, which was good by kicker Landon Williams.

USJ responded less than two minutes later with a 68-yard pass from Berkeley Pettigrew to Jayce Barksdale to put the Bruins on the scoreboard before halftime.

The Commanders extended the lead with its first possession in the third quarter before Pettigrew had his second touchdown pass of the night, this time to Noah Spencer for 55 yards to cut the Commanders’ lead to three at 17-14 late in the third quarter.

But Friendship responded with a 16-play drive in which they fed Wolcott the ball 10 times. The drive burned nearly eight minutes of the fourth quarter off the clock, giving USJ four minutes to score twice. The scoring play was a trick play where Friendship lined up unconventionally and snapped the ball, giving it to Channing Anthony for a nine-yard score.

USJ needed two scores in the next four minutes to win or force overtime. They got the first score with a couple of big plays. The first one came on a 31-yard pass in which Spencer tipped the ball and grabbed it for a 31-yard reception to get the ball past midfield. Pettigrew then hit Barksdale for a 48-yard score in which he avoided three tacklers to get into the endzone and give the Bruins a chance.

Unfortunately for the road team, USJ’s onside kick was called for illegal touching when it hit a USJ player before the ball traveled 10 yards down the field. Friendship ran the clock out from there.

Wolcott finished the night with 244 rushing yards and a touchdown on 30 carries.

“Their running back was good, but his runs were set up by their blocking,” Stroup said. “They did a good job pushing us around on both sides, and that made it difficult for us to get much going.

“And then when we did, we had some uncharacteristic penalties that pushed us back.”

Senior running back Kevin Finch finished the night with 97 yards on 21 carries.

“This senior class has meant a lot to this program, and they were a part of 42 victories,” Stroup said.

Friendship Christian (11-1) moves on to the state championship, where they will play Nashville Christian, who beat Jackson Christian in the other semifinal.

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