Evangel defends ACSC Championship

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

ALABASTER – A four-touchdown night from freshman Phenom Will Ferrell helped lead the Evangel Lightning to their third straight ACSC State Championship on Friday, Nov. 3, in front of a home crowd at the Evangel Sports Complex.

The Lightning had an offensive outburst, racking up several big plays in a 55-14 rout of Ezekiel, a team that took Evangel down to the wire earlier in the season when the Lightning held on for just a seven-point 59-52 win.

It was something first-year head coach Tim Smith got emotional about after the game thanks to being part of a championship team for the first time in his career.

“You know, when you’ve been coaching for 20 years and win one of these, it’s a memory that’s going to last a lifetime,” Smith said after taking a second to hold back tears. “Of course any coach wants one, so to get one my first year here is an unreal feeling.”

The championship run didn’t start without some adversity for Evangel, however, as they were forced to punt on their opening drive and Ezekiel took advantage behind a 43-yard touchdown run to take a quick 6-0 lead.

“They’re resilient,” Smith said simply of the early deficit. “I knew we weren’t in trouble. I just told them to calm down and go play our game and that’s what we did.”

The Lightning outscored Ezekiel 55-8 the rest of the game behind several huge offensive plays.

On Evangel’s second drive of the game, Tyler Henderson went 4-for-4 on the drive with a 12-yard pass to Seth Harrison, an 8-yard pass to Coleby Henderson, a 13-yard pass to Luke Bayliss and capped off by a 13-yard touchdown pass to Coleby, who grabbed a nice one-handed catch to give Evangel a 7-6 lead.

Ezekiel wasn’t able to stop the Lightning from that point forward as Harrison and Coleby Henderson continued making spectacular receptions and Ferrell dominated on the ground.

Ferrell had touchdown runs of 30, 33, 6 and 56 yards on the night to lead the Lightning offensively the rest of the way.

“A freshman,” Smith said straight to the point. “His future is so bright.”

Smith was also proud of the way his defense performed in a physical manner, which clearly frustrated the Ezekiel offense, who came up on several occasions hitting the ground with anger at the lack of running room.

“I’m so proud of this group of kids and what they were able to accomplish this season by defending the title,” Smith said of his team’s effort. “I knew Wednesday that that team down there in blue was ready to play, heck they wanted to play Thursday and I had to calm them down a little bit.”

Tyler Henderson, Kamden Smith, Samuel Graham, Coleby Henderson, Nate Arvizu, Theo Mangos, Luke Sanders, Hunter Green and John Lloyd were all named to the All-ACSC team, while Lloyd was named Mr. Football of the league.

Evangel remains undefeated (8-0) all time against Ezekiel and beat them in the championship game for the third straight year to finish the season 9-2 overall and with the 2017 ACSC State Championship.