Evangel holds off Hope in Sky Bowl epic
By DREW GRANTHUM/Sports Editor
ALABASTER — The score indicates otherwise, but the Oct. 3 Evangel win over rival Hope Christian in the annual Sky Bowl was far from easy. The Lightning held off a furious comeback from the Eagles to take a 50-35 win.
The Eagles looked to set the tone early, as three plays into the game Dillon Thompson hit Cannon Fuqua for a 50-yard touchdown strike to put the Eagles up 6-0 following a missed two-point try.
Evangel answered with a 10-yard interception return for a touchdown by Micah Murphy, who also kicked the point after to Evangel a 7-6 lead. Andrew Thompson added to the lead when he hit Mason Murphy on a 27-yard score to go up 14-6 with 5:19 left in the second. Thompson added yet another score on a 3-yard run, with Micah Murphy adding his third extra point of the contest to give Evangel a 21-6 lead.
Hope struggled to get anything going in the rest of the quarter, as Evangel added another touchdown on an Andrew Thompson 24-yard pass for a touchdown with 1:53 to go and a safety off a blocked punt by Tyler Byrd with 56 seconds left. The final Evangel score of the half came on a 3-yard Micah Murphy run for a touchdown to put the Lightning up 36-6 at halftime.
If the first half belonged to Evangel, then the second half was all Hope. Late in the third quarter, Fuqua gave life to the Hope offense when he broke a 34-yard run for a touchdown that pulled the score to 36-14 following a fake field goal attempt for two points.
With 1:04 left in the quarter, Fuqua again broke loose on a run, this time for 24 yards and touchdown. The extra point attempt was good, and the Eagles not only pulled to 36-21, but woke the silenced crowd and swung momentum back in their favor heading into the final period of play.
The Eagles defense whipped the crowd into a fever pitch at the beginning of the fourth when they group sacked Andrew Thompson in the endzone for a safety to make it 36-23, and on the ensuing drive, Fuqua hit Dillon Thompson for a 7-yard touchdown pass that made it 36-29 following the extra point.
The Eagles looked poised to take control of the game until Andrew Thompson ended the rally with a 48-yard beauty of a pass to Brad Baggett for a touchdown to put Evangel up 43-29 following the extra point. Mason Murphy added a two-yard run for a touchdown with 1:44 to go to all but seal the game, as the Eagles added one more score with 1:32 left in the game as Fuqua hit Cam Barnett for a 65-yard touchdown pass, but the Lightnign held on for the 50-35 win.
Evangel head coach Don Murphy said he was pleased with his team’s effort in the win.
“We knew it was going to be tough,” he said. “There was no quit on (Hope’s) side. (Our guys) were sacrificing for the man next to them on the field. We’ve got three more games, and we want to make sure we’re learning. We’ve got to continue to get better and be ready when it comes time for playoffs.”
Hope head coach Tony Nafe said he was proud of his squad despite the final score.
“Evangel always has a great team,” he said. “We had seven starters on the sideline (out). We were playing a lot of young guys, not taking anything away from Evangel, they played a heck of a ballgame. I will tell you, I don’t know if I’ve ever been prouder of one of my teams than I was these guys in the second half. Down 36-6, and to come back like we did, it would’ve been easier to roll over.”
Evangel moves on to take on LightHouse School on Oct. 3, while Hope will face Ezekiel.