Hope-Evangel rivalry intensifies as rematch approaches

Published 11:45 pm Tuesday, October 19, 2010

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

The football teams at Hope Christian School and Evangel Christian School have only been playing each other for the past four years, but the rivalry between the schools has already matured beyond the series’ youth.

Much the same as the local rivalry between Pelham and Thompson high schools and the statewide battle between Auburn and Alabama, the annual eight-man matchup between the Hope Eagles of Pelham and the Evangel Lightning of Alabaster spurs debate, and a bit of trash talking, 365 days a year.

“No matter what people think, the game seems to bring out the best and the worst in a team,” said Hope football coach Mark Rettig. “It’s sort of like shaking up a bag of marbles. You can go into the game expecting to play South Carolina, and then you are like Alabama showing up with the wrong attitude.”

“I think we both make each other’s programs stronger,” said Evangel football coach Wayne Price.

On Oct. 8, Hope beat the Lightning 60-22, marking the first time the Eagles had ever beaten Evangel. But the following week, both teams learned they would meet again on Oct. 29.

And in the second round, the stakes will be much higher.

Hope, which compiled a regular season 10-0 record after the team they were scheduled to play Oct. 22 forfeited, and Evangel, which is at 6-4 on the season and still must play at Heritage Christian Oct. 22, will be playing for the Alabama Christian Sports Conference state championship.

The Eagles and the Lightning were selected as the top two teams in the conference, and will be playing for statewide supremacy rather than local bragging rights during their second season bout.

Evangel is looking to be better prepared for its cross-town rivals the second time around, Price said.

“We have been blessed with dominating that relationship (with Hope),” Price said. “But they have a really strong team this year. They have a lot more depth than we do.

“But we are looking at it as coming back and establishing Evangel football,” Price added. “We are looking at finishing strong.”

Winning over Evangel for the first time this year was a “big deal” for the Hope football players who had never seen as victory over the Lightning, Rettig said.

“Our guys feel like the Evangel people look down on them,” Rettig said. “They all attend a lot of the same co-op classes and things like that, and they are always picking and poking at each other.

“The Evangel guys are nervous about this game, and our guys know it,” Rettig said.

Illness has plagued the Lightning roster all year, and the team has suffered from several costly turnovers during key games, Price said.

“Our guys have a lot to prove in this game, and they have the ability to come out and do that,” Price said. “They (Hope) have a lot of speed and can make big plays. But if they don’t have the ball, they can’t make big plays.

“We are going to try to keep our offense on the field and our defense on the bench, even though a lot of those players are the same,” Price laughed.

Rettig said his team is looking forward to the rematch, and having an extra week to prepare for it.

“I think going into it with a week off gives us an advantage. This is a big deal for our guys and for our school,” Rettig said. “For two small schools, the rivalry can’t be beat.”