Evangel surges late to beat Hope, win ACSC titlePublished 2:46am Saturday, November 2, 2013
By DREW GRANTHUM/Sports Writer
ALABASTER — From the outset, the Nov. 1 showdown between county rivals Hope Christian and Evangel Christian had all the makings of a heavyweight prize fight: two powerhouses, at the top of their games, facing off to decide not just a rivalry matchup, but the ACSC 8-man football state championship.
Those in attendance were not disappointed, as the two squads slugged it out the entire length of the game, with Evangel nipping Hope, 29-20.
The game was wrought with turnovers and missed opportunities, starting on the third play of the game when Evangel’s Andrew Thompson was picked off by Dillon Thompson.
Hope responded by turning the ball over on a Tim Bell fumble, but Evangel couldn’t move the ball and punted. Another Hope fumble occurred, and led to a missed Dru Bell field goal.
Neither team was able to get on the board until Nate Scott broke a 21-yard run for a score with 5:30 left in the second. Bell tacked on the extra point, making the score 7-0 in favor of the Lightning.
Evangel scored again when a bad snap on a Hope punt led to a safety to put the Lightning up 9-0 with 10:34 left in the third.
Just as it appeared Evangel would pull away, Hope roared to life. A 24-yard strike from Reid Allen to Dillon Thompson put Hope on the board. The two point try was no good, and the Eagles trailed by three.
Thompson then picked off another Evangel pass, and on the ensuing drive reeled in another Allen pass for a score. The two point try was successful, and with 3:04 left in the third, Hope led 14-9.
Evangel’s next drive ended on a failure to convert on fourth down, and Hope got the ball back on its own 16. Allen took to the air again, finding Thompson for a third touchdown. The extra point was no good, and with 6:03 left in the game, Hope held a 20-9 lead.
Evangel answered on the next play from scrimmage, as Andrew Thompson hit Grant Webster for 50 yards and a score. The two point try was no good, and the score was 20-15 Hope.
Hope’s next drive ended on fourth down as the Eagles were unable to convert on fourth down near midfield.
Evangel took five plays to find the end zone again, when Webster broke a 9-yard run to put the Lightning up 22-20 after Bell’s extra point.
Hope lost a fumble on the next drive, and Evangel turned the miscue into six points on another Webster run. Bell’s kick made it 29-20 with 50 seconds left in the game.
Hope had one last shot at a score, but was unable to find the end zone as time ran out, sealing the win and the title for Evangel.
Head coach Del Clayton credited the win to the squad’s 16 seniors.
“We just made some big plays,” Evangel head coach Del Clayton said. “When you get a group that big, it’s fulfilling to see them come away with a win.”
While the loss was disappointing, Hope head coach Tony Nafe said the team can still win the NACA 8-man football national championship in Dayton, Tenn. in a few weeks.
“It didn’t go the way we wanted to,” he said. “I was proud of the guys. You had two great teams that came in undefeated. A couple of bad breaks on our part, it could have gone differently. We’re both going to NACA, if we both win in the first round, we may get a rematch.”
Evangel’s Grant Webster was named the game’s MVP, as he notched two rushing touchdowns and a receiving score, posted eight tackles, had a key fumble recovering and a pass defended.