Simply put, Friends' Doug Pierce doesn't belong in the KCAC. At 6-foot-6 and 205 pounds, with hands like flypaper and the fleet, long strides of a gazelle, it only takes one glance to ask why he isn't playing against tougher competition.
Certainly coaches within the NAIA ranks wish he was playing in another league.
Pierce torched another opponent Saturday, catching six passes for 163 yards and two touchdowns as the Falcons defeated Sterling 30-6 at a windswept and chilled Adair-Austin Stadium.
"The people here, the team is great," Pierce said. "Everybody's real nice. I like the way people hustle in practice. It's a brotherhood."
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Pierce was part of a national championship team at Blinn (Texas) Junior College, and earned a scholarship at Division II power Abilene Christian. But Pierce said family issues forced him to look elsewhere, and Friends was more than happy to bring him aboard.
"He called," Friends coach Monty Lewis said. "I knew who he was. He wanted to come home, so to speak, and he wanted to be back in this area. But he's been in higher leagues."
It took a while before the Falcons made use of Pierce's ability. After a scoreless first quarter in which Friends turned the ball over twice, quarterback Tim Rozzell found Pierce in the corner of the end zone for a 27-yard touchdown pass and 7-0 lead.
Friends' offensive line, which has undergone some criticism in KCAC circles, didn't steamroll Sterling's front seven into the turf, but it kept Rozzell's jersey clean. In turn, Rozzell completed 20 of 31 passes for 291 yards and three scores.
His second touchdown pass came with 5 minutes, 32 seconds left in the first half, when on fourth-and-4 from the Sterling 13, he connected with Mike Hyde on a slant pattern. Hyde broke a tackle and had a clear path to the end zone.
Sterling had its chances to make it a competitive game, but it needed more to win. The Warriors fumbled short of the marker on a fourth-down play inside the Friends 10, one of four turnovers on the day. It also failed to notice Friends third-string quarterback Jayme Bristow sneak onto the field during a fake punt. He threw a 21-yard pass to Mike Hyde to keep another drive alive.
That play came late in the third quarter, when the outcome was in doubt. Sterling scored by going 56 yards in 10 plays, with Clay McEachern's 4-yard catch making it 16-6. But after the fake punt, Friends scored five plays later when Rozzell went in from seven yards to make it 23-6.
The Falcon defense, which has given up 14 points in three home games, made that lead stand up.
"It's a whole team thing," linebacker Brek Train said. "The turnovers are key because they help our offense and keep us off the field."
Indeed, Friends controlled the ball for 36 minutes, 44 seconds, running 77 plays to Sterling's 50.
The result wasn't a surprise to Sterling coach Andy Lambert, whose team fell to 1-3.
"They've always had a good defense," Lambert said. "And when you add some good, fast playmakers to that offense, it's a real toxic combination for any defense."
Sterling (2-3, 1-3) 0 0 6 0 — 6 Friends (4-1, 4-1) 0 20 0 14 — 30
F—Pierce 27 pass from Rozzell (Gear kick)
F—Hyde 13 pass from Rozzell (kick failed)
F—FG Johnson 42
S—McEachern 4 pass from Burbank (pass failed)
F—Rozzell 7 run (Johnson kick)
F—Pierce 47 pass from Rozzell (Johnson kick)
Rushing—Sterling, Colquitt 18-40, Burbank 10-32, McEachern 2-5, Georing 1-1. Friends, Rozzell 14-58, Miles 11-31, Bolander 5-10, Goerzen 6-6, Greenbaum 3-6, Craddock 2-5, Benning 3-6.
Passing—Sterling, Burbank 11-19-110-3. Friends, Rozzell 20-31-291-1, Bristow 1-1-21-0.
Receiving—Sterling, Garcia 4-28, McEachern 3-27, Kempf 1-25, Dunbar 1-15, Davies 1-11, Alton 1-4. Friends, Hyde 10-121, Pierce 6-151, Miles 2-20, Benning 1-13, Sell 1-10, Franklin 1-6, O'Neilo 1-6.