Friends football coach Monty Lewis is talking about things in scope — of a game, of a program, of a career.
And it all ties to Saturday, when Lewis leads No. 15 Friends (5-1, 4-0 KCAC) against visiting No. 13 Tabor (5-1, 3-1) at Adair-Austin Stadium.
“Fact is, we haven’t been in a game with these type of implications for awhile,” Lewis said. “And that it’s going against a guy I have all the respect in the world for on the other sideline is big, too. But he wants to win just as bad as I do.”
The guy on the other sideline — Tabor coach Mike Gardner — has ties to Lewis going back several decades, when Lewis was the coach at Southwestern and Gardner was an assistant at Lindenwood and Bethel. They squared off as head coaches from 2003-05 in Gardner’s first stint at Tabor and then again since 2010 when Gardner returned to Tabor.
“When you’re a young coach, you know who the other guys are to look out for,” Lewis said. “And (Gardner) was always one of those guys. We developed a friendship over the years.”
A loss to Friends could go a long way toward bouncing Tabor out of the KCAC title and NAIA playoff race. A win for the Falcons sets up a showdown against No. 8 Ottawa on Nov. 3 — the Falcons play at KCAC also-rans Bethany and Bethel in the two games after Tabor — which would likely decide the KCAC title.
Tabor has the No. 2 rusher in the KCAC in James Monroe (850 yards, eight touchdowns) and Friends has the No. 3 rusher in Thomas Hankerson (839 yards, eight touchdowns). Friends leads the KCAC in total defense and Tabor is third.
“Two similar, grind-it-out offenses,” Lewis said. “And two similar defenses that are playing at a really high level.”
Senthavy leads the Heartland Conference with 10 goals, which ties Newman’s NCAA Division II school record set by Amanda Knabe in the 2008 and 2009 seasons. The Jets host Lubbock Christian at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
The Newman women’s team was picked third, behind St. Mary’s and Texas-Permian Basin.