Evangel shuts out East Central to improve to 2-0

Published 11:53 am Saturday, August 19, 2023

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

PINSON – After a week out of state, the Evangel Lightning returned to their home state with a dominant 44-0 win over the East Central HomeSchool Patriots on the road in Pinson on Friday, Aug. 18.

Just like against Cary Christian in their opener in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, the Lightning got off to a flying start after a nine-yard touchdown pass from Kemp Swords to Will Welch, the man he battled with for the starting quarterback position all summer and who is now impacting the game at receiver. Evangel earned the two-point conversion to get an early 8-0 lead.

From there, Caeleb Austin scored an 11-yard touchdown run, and after the Lightning converted another two-point try, they had a 16-0 lead going into the second quarter.

Evangel opened their second quarter scoring with a bang thanks to a 71-yard touchdown run from Austin along with a two-point conversion. Later in the quarter, he punched in a touchdown from the two-yard line, which gave Evangel a 30-0 lead going into halftime.

After the break, the Lightning used Swords’ legs to get their final two scores of the night. Swords had a nine-yard touchdown run and an eight-yard score in the period, and a two-point conversion off his last touchdown run gave Evangel a 44-0 lead in the third quarter, which they held through the final whistle.

After a limited passing performance against Cary Christian, Swords was able to show more of his arm talent against the Patriots this week. He finished 11-for-15 passing with 225 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions in the win. He also had five completions of 25 yards or more, the longest for 52 yards.

That 52-yard pass was caught by Kye Gray, who led all Evangel receivers with 92 yards off just two catches. Zion Thompson also had another solid performance with 72 yards from three catches, including one for 40 yards from Swords.

Austin led all Lightning players on the ground with 110 rushing yards and three touchdowns from eight carries. Swords had 60 yards rushing to finish with 285 all-purpose yards.

Over on defense, Clay Stanton was the leading tackler with ten, including a sack. Grady Watkins also had nine tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery off Cole Romano’s forced fumble. The Lightning also secured two interceptions, one from Brayden Rives and another from Wesley Holmes.

With the win, the Lightning improve to 2-0 and pick up their first victory in ACSC play. Next week, Evangel will come back to Alabaster for their home opener against Evangel Montgomery on Aug. 25.