By Hartsville Vidette Staff Reporter

On a frigid Friday night at Pirtle Field, Friendship Christian was red hot as the Commanders delivered the early knockout punch to Grace Baptist 56-14 in the first round of the TSSAA playoffs.
The Commanders scored the first three times they had the ball and on six of their seven first-half possessions to lead 42-0 at halftime.
After quarterback Jon Miller was sacked on the game’s first play, tailback Jeremy Rickaway swept 69 yards down the left sideline on the second to score 70 seconds into the game.
Miller threw three passes. All went for touchdowns covering 53 yards to tight end Michael Teeter and 58 and 54 yards to wideout Garrett McKnight on fly patterns down the sideline for a 28-0 lead.
“They ended up putting so many on the line again, so there was really no sense but take what they gave us and that was being able throw the football,” Friendship coach John McNeal said after his undefeated Commanders claimed their 11th conquest of the fall. “We had some wide-open guys who made some good plays there to get the lead quick and really try to get the game in and get the starters out as quick as we could.”
The Eagles, in the playoffs for the first time in their brief football history, had just two first downs in the first half before returning to Chattanooga with a final record of 6-5.
“Defense did well and then the younger guys came in, and I didn’t care if they scored,” McNeal said. “It makes no difference to me as long as we get the win and the young guys were able to hang on.
“It gives them a chance to play and get our older ones out of there.”
Freshman Jon Markham scored on a 16-yard jet sweep for a 35-0 lead before McNeal began inserting some second-stringers into the game.
Freshman Lee Maasen scored on an 8-yard run late in the first half and a 2-yarder late in the third quarter.
Robby Preston, normally a fullback, ran some tailback in the third quarter and rumbled in from 10 yards out for a 49-0 lead early in the period.
That’s when Grace put together a solid drive which led to a 1-yard touchdown sneak by quarterback Josh Blake. Blake, who led the Eagles with 54 rushing yards on 14 carries and completed 7 of 18 passes for 66 more, rolled out and found Seth Johnson for a 24-yard touchdown toss in the first minute of the fourth quarter.
The Commanders accumulated 471 yards total offense, including 306 on the ground. Rickaway carried the ball five times for 103 yards, all in the first half. Miller was 3-for-3 for 165 yards and three scores.
Grace finished with 166 total yards.
Friendship’s starters enjoyed the win during the second half even while, many miles away, Gordonsville was putting away South Pittsburg 41-7 to set up next week’s second-round game with the Region 4-1A-rival Tigers on Coles Ferry Pike.
“It’s done,” McNeal said of the first-round win. “From here on out, you don’t enjoy anything but getting ready for the next week.”
Sports Editor Andy Reed can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 17 or by e-mail at [email protected].