LINDSBORG — Senior defensive back Quinn Cunningham says he and the rest of the Friends defense haven't forgotten the frustration and embarrassment they felt after giving up 60 points to McPherson in the season-opener.
Since that performance six weeks ago, the Falcons' defensive unit has allowed only nine points per game.
As good as Friends' defense has been, it took its play to a completely different level Saturday afternoon in a 46-0 victory at Bethany.
The Falcons forced eight turnovers and held the Swedes to 199 yards, including only eight rushing yards.
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"After the McPherson game, we knew we had a lot to work on," said Cunningham, who recorded five tackles and two interceptions Saturday. "I think we have been getting better and better and it's starting to really show."
Friends (6-1, 5-1) used different blitz packages and coverage schemes to make life miserable for quarterback Steven Baker. The Falcons wanted to make Baker one-dimensional and keep him in the pocket.
The result was a near-perfect gameplan. Baker completed 18 of 47 passes for 191 yards and six interceptions, while rushing for zero yards. He was also sacked five times and hurried four other times.
"In my opinion, our front four is the best in the conference," said defensive lineman Jordan Highley, who had two sacks and three other tackles. "We do a good job of getting pressure off the ends and our two guys in the middle are really strong."
The Falcons scored on two of their first three possessions. Tim Rozzell found Mike Hyde for an 8-yard touchdown pass, then added a 3-yard run and Friends led 14-0 after the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Michael Batts intercepted a pass and returned it 40 yards for a score. Rozzell added another touchdown run, this one from five yards, and threw his second touchdown pass, finding Doug Pierce from 19 yards. At the break Friends led 36-0.
Rozzell's final line was 250 yards passing, 48 yards rushing and five total touchdowns. His explosive receiving duo, Hyde and Pierce, finished with 193 yards combined on 13 catches.
"Tim Rozzell is a guy that can make a play with his arm or his feet but he's also good at reading a defense and checking out of a play and making adjustments," Friends coach Monty Lewis said. "He knows the ball needs to get to Pierce and Hyde and he got the ball to them today."
Bethany made one last attempt to end Friends' shutout, late in the fourth quarter. The Swedes had first and goal at the Falcon 8-yard line, but failed to score on fourth down.
It was a fitting end to a masterful performance.
"The defense stepped up," Cunningham said. "We had a lot of guys making plays today."
Bethany (4-3, 3-3) 0 0 0 0 — 0 Friends (6-1, 5-1) 14 22 0 10 — 46
F—Hyde 8 pass from Rozzell (Johnson kick)
F—Rozzell 3 run (Johnson kick)
F—Batts 40 INT (Hamilton from Rozzell)
F—Rozzell 5 run (Johnson kick)
F—Pierce 19 pass from Rozzell (Johnson kick)
F—Rozzell 6 run (Johnson kick)
F—Johnson 41 FG
Rushing—Friends, Miles 11-61, Rozzell 11-48, Trotter 6-36, Bennett 4-18. Bethany, Malcom 3-7, Harris 2-2, Baker 9-0, Johnson 1-(-1).
Passing—Friends, Rozzell 19-36-250-2, Bristow 0-1-0-0. Bethany, Baker 18-47-191-6.
Receiving—Friends, Hyde 9-124, Pierce 4-69, O'Neilo 3-27, Greenbaum 1-17. Bethany, Ja. Johnson 5-62, S. Johnson 5-57, Anderson 4-37, Parks 2-20.