A quick look at the scoreboard at Rodney Duron Field tells you most of what you need to know about Evangel football. If the list of district and state championships isn’t enough, perhaps the sign “National Champions, 1999” across the bottom gets the point across.
And this, of course, is assuming you’ve never talked to anyone or heard anything about high school football in the state of Louisiana or the South.
Yet, somehow, the Eagles – after opting to play all the way up — find (or at least found) themselves as an underdog in District 1-5A play in 2015.
Despite boasting one of the best programs in the country over the past two-plus decades, the folks on Broadacres Road have no problem with current projections or perception.
“Football is such a mental game,” Evangel head coach Byron Dawson said. “You always want to be the underdog when you play this game – it gives you a great advantage. That’s what we’re seeing. I’m proud to be a part of it.”
Friday, Dawson was concerned a visit by Class 4A representative LaGrange would be a tricky prospect. After pasting Parkway, 56-21, in the district opener, the previously 2-1 Gators offered a brief respite before 1-5A play resumes.
“This was our trap game,” Dawson said.
Even though LaGrange is located a couple of hundred miles away in Lake Charles, you can bet the Gstors didn’t expect a routine 3A opponent. They didn’t get one, either.
Evangel held LaGrange to four first downs and minus-6 yards rushing in a 34-12 victory.
“We’ve never stopped playing the big boys,” Evangel offensive coordinator Denny Duron said.
With Parkway’s somewhat surprising victory against Byrd on Friday, there is a trio of undefeated teams atop the 1-5 standings. Parkway and Byrd are not involved in that tie.
Haughton, Airline and Evangel share the district lead with five weeks remaining.
Not since Duron built this program has Evangel been considered a local underdog.
“It’s been a great experience for us,” Duron said. “For so many years, we’ve never had that role. We’re honestly enjoying that. We’re not responding to any of that, because we like it.”
No, this isn’t the Evangel of the past. The Eagles aren’t throwing the ball all over the yard or vying for a national crown, but they boast an intangible only one program in Shreveport or Bossier City can – a long-standing tradition of winning big football games.
Unlike the days of Brock Berlin and a 9-yard shotgun, however, the Eagles’ current calling card is a punishing ground game and a suffocating defense.
Running back Jamarqueza Mims led the way with 125 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. After he appeared to suffer a significant injury in the second half (he did return), DJ Anderson rattled off 57 yards on 10 runs.
Evangel quarterback Connor Curry hit on 10 of his first 12 passes and the Eagles improved to 4-1 (1-0 in 1-5A).
“That’s what it’s all about; playing for your brothers,” said Curry, who threw one interception.
However, it wasn’t the pick that had Curry kicking the dirt following the final horn. The reason for frustration, rather, was his lone tackle on the night.
When Anderson emerged from the line of scrimmage with room to run late in the game, Curry, being a good teammate, was willing to sacrifice his frame to get his backup running back a touchdown. However, Anderson surprised Curry with a cut left and was sent to the turf by his quarterback.
“Oh man,” Curry said. “I was supposed to go block for him.”
Still frustrated, Curry, standing near the point of impact, said: “He would have been gone. But I got me a tackle.”
It’s business as usual in the shadow of The Rock. The Eagles are having fun, and of course, they are winning. And the cat’s out of the bag. They certainly will not be a pushover in District 1-5A.
“In football, perception is not reality. You have to play,” Duron said. “(Over the years), winning has been the product of a lot of little things. Nothing about the polls or opinions changes the way we go about our business every day. We try to do our best. We’re good winners and we’re the best losers in the world, honestly.”