Evangel wins battle of 8-man champions against Evangel Montgomery

Published 12:08 am Saturday, August 26, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By CHRIS MEGGINSON | Special to the Reporter

ALABASTER – Lightning struck seven times Friday night to illuminate a 50-6 Evangel Christian School victory in its home opener at the newly named Clayton-O’Neal Field.

ECS wasted little time to set the tone as the defending Alabama Christian School Conference 8-man champions against the defending AISA 8-man state champion Evangel Christian Academy of Montgomery. Caeleb Austin returned the opening kickoff 40 yards and helped set up an 11-yard touchdown pass from Kemp Swords to Clay Stanton with less than two minutes of clock used.

“We built the game up, and our kids jumped on them quick. It was a big crowd and a big night,” said ECS head coach Tim Smith. “It meant something to the kids and to me too. I was in the AISA right at 20 years. It’s a good rivalry, and when it’s a rivalry you want to win it.”

With their 2013 undefeated team on hand to watch, the Evangel Lightning scored three times in the final four minutes of the first quarter. First, it was Cole Romano scooping and scoring at the goal line after Stanton blocked a punt. Austin punched in the two-point conversion on the point after.

Less than 30 seconds later, Austin delivered a defensive score with a 55-yard pick-six. Will Welch scored the 2-point play to extend the score, 22-0, with 3:38 to play in the first quarter.

After Carson Donovan picked up his first career sack to help turn the ball over, Swords completed three consecutive passes to Welch for a total of 33 yards and a touchdown. Welch finished with 73 yards on six receptions. Colton Dorough had the 2-point run to make it 30-0 by the end of the first quarter.

In the second quarter, Swords capped a two-play, 73-yard drive with a 64-yard touchdown run with 10:51 to play in the first half. Once again, the Lightning scored twice in less than 30 seconds to close the half.

After Swords scored on a two-yard quarterback keeper and threw a two-point pass to Grady Watkins, Hayden Black had a 35-yard pick six to close the half. Swords finished the night with 154 offensive yards, 86 passing yards on 8-of-9 attempts and 68 yards on six rushes.

“Kemp gives us a dimension we’ve never had as a team,” Smith said.

ECS throttled back its offense in the second half, but the senior-heavy defense continued to shut down the AISA champs. Grady Watkins and Josh Looman each had six tackles. Watkins added four for a loss and a sack.

The Evangel Lions from Montgomery used a deep pass in the third quarter to move down to the Lightning one-yard-line. The goal line defense pushed the Lions backwards into a 4th-and-9, but Markevean Johnson completed a touchdown pass to Andre Stoddard to spoil a potential shutout with 1:44 left in the third.

Evangel improved to 3-0 and will remain home the next two weeks, first hosting AISA opponent Southern Prep on Friday, Sept. 1.