What happened to Friends was that the Falcons ran into a better team. That wasn’t altogether surprising. This is the NAIA playoffs and every team is good, every team should be worthy of being there. What was surprising to me was the way that Northwestern Oklahoma manhandled Friends physically. On paper, yes, the two teams were comparable, and if anything it would have appeared that Friends had a slim advantage on size. But from the first snap the Rangers were moving at an entirely different speed. Even at that … i don’t know that that was the main reason they lost. The Falcons played tight for the first time all year. Maybe, and this is just theory, they got overwhelmed by their surroundings and the pressure. And then they cracked.
I think there’s a solution there, though. And I think Monty Lewis will win a lot of NAIA playoff games before it’s all said and done. But there need to be some changes — mainly with scheduling. Budgets at NAIA schools are ridiculously tight, but playing in a 10-team conference where six of the teams are under two hours away and the rest are no more than three means that stretching a dollar shouldn’t be that hard. Playing SW Assemblies of God as your one game outside of your conference schedule just isn’t going to cut it. Why not play Northwestern? Why not play a team from the Heart of America?
Saturday’s loss hurts the KCAC, no question. I think the conference got the benefit of the doubt from national voters this year, which allowed Friends to climb so high in the polls … I don’t think that is going to be the case in the future. This loss is going to resonate with some voters and it will be hard for the Falcons to climb that high again without a better resume.
Before the season, even, the talk was that Friends would be judged on its postseason success or failures. Saturday’s loss showed just how far off that success may be.