It was a case of the rich hitting the jackpot again for Friendship Christian School. Just months removed from claiming the Class 2A state football championship, and one week before summer workouts would begin, Commanders coach John McNeal was told there was a student/athlete looking to transfer.
The player was A.J. Long, an all-state quarterback from Pennsylvania who was moving to live with his mother and stepfather less than 10 miles from the Lebanon, Tenn., school.
McNeal admitted he had to research Long after meeting him to find out how good the player was.
"I was coming out of a meeting and someone told me there was a young man and his mother wanting to find out about the school, take a tour, that sort of thing," McNeal told the Wilson Post. "They also said he was a football player, but I had no idea he was that kind of football player. I knew nothing about him.
"From the first day he was here, you wouldn't know he has been here just a couple of weeks. You'd think he's been here a long time. He's a great kid, he fits in, is always happy around the kids and personality-wise he's been great."
Containing Long will be the biggest challenge for Boyd-Buchanan in tonight's 2A semifinal, a rematch of last year's quarterfinal overtime thriller that FCS won by one point.
While living with his father in Pennsylvania, Long became an all-state player and a MaxPreps second-team sophomore All-American by throwing for 3,700 yards, rushing for 931 and totaling 63 touchdowns. He also led his team, St. Pius X, to the District 11 Class A state championship last season.
This year with the defending TSSAA champion Commanders, Long has thrown for 2,243 yards and rushed for 570 (7.8 per attempt) with 39 total TDs. He already has scholarship offers from UCLA, Arizona and Syracuse, and last week he threw for 233 and five TDs and ran for 100 on just 10 carries in the win over Marion County.
"He's very athletic and accurate on his throws," Boyd-Buchanan coach Grant Reynolds said. "What scares you is he runs as well as he throws and makes good decisions with the ball. If you get pressure he can scramble and throw it downfield or just take off on a big run, so we'll have to be sound in our discipline and our reads. You have to keep an eye on him on every play or he'll hurt you."
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 20 years, starting at the News-Free Press as a 19-year-old reporter. He has been with the Times Free Press since its inception and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers in the nation ...