Evangel starts season with dominant shutout

Published 1:06 am Saturday, August 18, 2018

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

COLUMBIANA – If you were worried about their being any lack of focus for the Evangel Lightning following their ACSC state championship performance last year, you can rest easy.

The Lightning opened their 2018 campaign with a dominant 48-0 shutout of Evangel Christian School out of Montgomery to start the new season with a 1-0 record, and against an 11-man team, on Friday, Aug. 17, at the Columbiana Sports Complex.

While the possibility of not shifting focus to this season after the state title run last year was there, Evangel looked nothing like a team that lost close to 15 seniors off of last year’s squad.

“We are way ahead of where we were last year at this time,” head coach Tim Smith said after the opening-night win. “I thought for the opening game of the year, we looked real crisp.”

A big reason for the fast start was due to sophomore Will Ferrell picking up right where he left off in the ACSC State Championship game last year, where he posted four touchdowns.

Less than three minutes into the game, Ferrell had already posted his first touchdown of 2018 thanks to a 15-yard touchdown run that put the Lightning on top 7-0 with 9:31 left in the first quarter.

Ferrell went on to score two more touchdowns in the game, one a 22-yard run and the other a 32-yard catch, as he was responsible for three of the Lightning’s seven touchdowns in the game.

He, along with fellow running back Noah Shears, were a powerful duo on offense in the first half, but unfortunately for the Lightning, Shears went out with a broken ankle in the second quarter.

To that point, he had rushed for 89 yards and two touchdowns on just 10 carries, showing how big of a blow that was for the team.

Noah Shears

Shears had made his mark, as had the entire Evangel team, who took a 35-0 lead into the half. While the offense was making a lot of noise and got a lot of praise after the game from Smith, he admitted how incredible it was to see what the defense did.

“The defense played so well tonight,” Smith said. “We rarely let them past the 50-yard line, which allowed our offense to go to work. I couldn’t be more proud about how that side of the ball came to play tonight.”

Evangel went on to churn a lot of clock in the second half with a powerful attack on the ground, eventually amassing 301 total rushing yards on just 28 carries in the game, which led to the final score of 48-0.

Ferrell had a large chunk of those yards totaling 121 yards on seven carries. Freshman running back Grant Bruce got one carry in the game and toted it 16 yards to the end zone for a touchdown.

Returning quarterback Tyler Henderson had a lot of pressure off of his shoulders in the opener due to a strong run game, and finished the night 5-14 for 156 yards and two touchdowns.

He had one 95-yard touchdown bomb to Chase Jones, while Seth Harrison finished the game with three catches for 29 yards, all three of which gave the Lightning a first down.

Defensively, Harrison had an interception, but it was Hunter Greene’s performance that drew praise from Smith after the game.

“He was all over the field and easily had double digit tackles,” Smith said. “He reads everything so well and had our defense lined up perfectly all night. He was everywhere and was key to helping our defense have such a strong night.”

Now, Evangel will hit the road on Friday, Aug. 24, when they travel to take on county-foe Kingwood Lions, who pulled off a dominant 34-0 win of their own to open the season.

“We have a lot of work to do going into that one because we know how much Kingwood has improved,” Smith said. “I think our confidence is high though. It was big to get started fast tonight, because our schedule is going to be tough this year. We knew we needed to start fast and we need to keep getting better every Friday night.”