District 1-5A, meet Evangel. Again.
You may remember them from their last appearance in 5A, an undefeated district run capped prior to a state championship win over West Monroe in 2004. These Eagles (3-1) don’t have that same kind of overwhelming talent, and they haven’t exactly looked dominant on a regular basis so far this young season.
But No. 8 Parkway became the first to discover Evangel can still be impressive, especially at home. The Eagles did everything right in a 56-21 rout to extend a 67-game home win streak in district play that dates back to 1990.
“We just knew we had to come out here with energy,” said junior quarterback Connor Curry, who completed 10-of-16 passes for 128 yards. “It’s in the Bible, you can do all things through God who gives you strength, so we came out here and we believed.”
They left no doubt as to who was the stronger team Friday night, stunning an undefeated Parkway team that averaged more than 50 points in its first three games. Six turnovers kept the Panthers from ever finding any sort of consistency, and coach David Feaster said it felt like his offense wasn’t on the field the entire game.
Senior quarterback and Louisiana Tech commit Keondre Wudtee didn’t take his first snap until close to the ten-minute mark in the second quarter thanks to an unusual sequence of events, beginning with C.J. Morgan’s 94-yard kick return touchdown. Evangel responded with a 17 play, 76-yard touchdown drive then scored twice more after a fumbled return and an onside kick recovery.
“I was proud of the way we bounced back from the kickoff return,” Eagles coach Byron Dawson said. “We could have went in the tank but we bounced back.”
Evangel clearly owns the size and physicality to compete with a 5A power such as Parkway, who found itself completely overpowered for all four quarters. Senior running back Jamarqueez Mims rushed for 186 yards and three touchdowns on 33 carries, while Curry added 83 more yards on 18 carries.
The highly touted junior quarterback shared a heartfelt embrace on the field after the game with his offensive coordinator, Denny Duron. He praised Curry for showing off every facet of his skillset as he threw for two touchdowns, passed for two more and scrambled for two critical first down conversions.
“I’ve been watching Connor start for 3 years and this is one of his finest moments,” Dawson said. “He did a great job of managing the game, of getting us first downs, of just moving the ball down the field. He’s just so special.”
Great quarterbacks are something of a tradition at Evangel, where NFL players Brock Berlin, Josh Booty and John David Booty are among those who have directed the offense. It’s far too early to add Curry’s name to that list, but he still has plenty of time to add to his list of achievements.
One of the state’s most competitive districts will provide a big stage for Curry and the Eagles, who host LaGrange last week before returning to 1-5A play for their last five games. Curry and Dawson both insisted they don’t think of their convincing win as sending a message to their future opponents, emphasizing the importance of not looking ahead or underestimating anyone.
But whether they want it or not, a complete performance capped off by Tanner Ash’s one-handed catch for a touchdown by Curry midway through the fourth quarter made a clear statement. Evangel returned to 5A to compete for more titles.