After a 44-6 win on Saturday over Bethel, Friends football coach Monty Lewis addressed the possible confusion of Falcons players who were yelled at by Lewis even as they were building a significant lead.
Those concerns were directed mostly at the defense, who let the winless Threshers stay close too long for Lewis’ comfort and who, as Lewis saw it, seemed content with exerting the minimal effort it took to beat a struggling opponent.
"Defensively I was disappointed with our lack of emotion," Lewis said. "You go through a tough week of practice — and our practices are really physical and we believe in conditioning — and you get one pay day. To be that low emotionally really irritated me. I didn’t think we’d respond that way."
Lewis eventually got around to extending praise to the Falcons (4-2, 3-1 KCAC), and the offense earned it by totaling 334 rushing yards and successfully employing a two-quarterback system that allowed Jayme Bristow and Derek Racette to thrive.
Friends running back Thomas Hankerson accounted for two Falcons turnovers, fumbling twice on plays in which he tried to attain extra yardage. But Hankerson also provided much of Friends’ scoring, rushing for three touchdowns and delivering 157 yards on 14 carries.
After fumbling on Friends’ opening drive, Hankerson atoned by scoring a 16-yard touchdown during its next series. Following the only scoring drive for Bethel (0-5, 0-4), Hankerson put the Falcons ahead by a touchdown again with a 75-yard score on Friends’ first play of the next drive.
The Falcons had four players rush for at least 41 yards, but the determination shown by Hankerson is what forced Lewis to put Hankerson on the top of a lengthy depth chart.
"He carries his emotions on his sleeve," Lewis said. "He really loves the game — you can tell by the way he plays (that) he loves to play football. And he’s a pleaser, he wants to please everyone.
"Those turnovers he had, the mistakes on the fumbles, trying to give the extra effort, I give him a pass on that. I hate to see the ball on the turf, but he’s only giving everything he has."
Bristow started at quarterback for Friends and led the Falcons on a pair of first-quarter touchdown drives. He completed 10 of 11 mostly short passes for 68 yards and oversaw Friends’ running game while contributing to it for 47 yards.
Racette also had one incompletion — an interception — and his five successful passes totaled 107 yards. Two of his passes were deep touchdown throws to Chris Allen, whose only two catches combined for 80 yards.
"It’s just a gut feeling for me on when to make a change," Lewis said. "I don’t really want to plan to say ’You go two series, you go three.’ I think we’re doing a disservice. You want to ride a hot horse, too, so if somebody’s got it going, don’t pull them."
Friends’ effort on offense placated Lewis but didn’t cancel out his dissatisfaction over a mostly emotionless defense. It’s not difficult to conclude, however, that the challenge of attempting to get players to match his enthusiasm is one he welcomes.
"Intensity is not a sometimes thing, it’s an all the time thing with me," Lewis said. "So I enjoy it, I do, trying to teach that lesson."
F—Hankerson 16 run (Pohlman kick)
B—Suchsland 3 run (kick failed)
F—Hankerson 75 run (Pohlman kick)
F—Hankerson 3 run (Pohlman kick)
F—Allen 54 pass from Racette (kick failed)
F—Taylor 33 run (Pohlman kick)
F—Allen 26 pass from Racette (Pohlman kick)
F—Pohlman 38 FG
Rushing—Bethel, Suchsland 22-67, Sykes 9-22, McCall 1-2, Johnston 1-(-2), Jones 3-(-7), Shields 1-(-7), Bronson 1-(-11); Friends, Hankerson 14-157, Taylor 4-56, Bristow 6-47, Racette 7-41, Oliver 3-20, Johnson 4-13, Scott 1-2, Dixon 1-0.
Passing—Bethel, Bronson 10-20-120-1 INT, Johnston 1-1-3-0; Friends, Bristow 10-11-68-0, Racette 5-6-107-1.
Receiving—Bethel, Johnston 3-41, Shields 2-32, Jones 2-21, Sykes 2-13, Regier 1-12, Suchsland 1-4; Friends, Bauer 5-33, Kelly 3-33, Butts 3-10, Allen 2-80, Johnson 1-17, Becker 1-2.