Evangel’s re-introduction to District 1-5A should give the Eagles a good idea of why many consider it to be the best in Louisiana.
They’ll open a harrowing schedule Friday night at Rodney Duron Field with No. 8 Parkway, one of three district teams sporting an undefeated record and ranked in the top 10. Evangel also received some votes in this week’s poll following a 62-0 win over Idabel (Okla.) to improve to 2-1.
Quarterback Connor Curry leads Evangel’s always dangerous passing attack and said the Eagles have been looking forward to returning to 5A for the first time since 2004, when they won their fourth district and state championships in six years. The state’s new rules finally allowed them to voluntarily move back up from Class 3A, and they didn’t hesitate to make the jump.
“We’ve got a great challenge,” Dawson said. “We feel like we knew we’re a 3A football program, 2A numbers and playing up in 5A so we see it as a great challenge for our guys but at the same time we’re excited about that challenge and know it’s going to be fun.”
Their first test will be finding a way to slow down or keep up with Parkway’s offense, which scored 47 points the previous two weeks after opening the season with a 57-56 win at Bastrop. Dawson said the Panthers possess serious weapons at every skill position, making it impossible for a defense to focus on just one player.
It all starts with senior and Louisiana Tech commit Keondre Wudtee, who Dawson called the best quarterback he’s seen in his 13 years of coaching. Feaster said Wudtee does a great job of keeping the offense balanced and finding the open man, even when it’s not his first option.
No one has been able to stop the Panthers’ passing game and their multiple weapons, including highly touted sophomore Terrace Marshall and senior C.J. Morgan. Feaster said Morgan, a Mississippi State commit at cornerback, may transition over to play more for a resurgent defense as district play begins.
“We just came out extremely strong the last couple of weeks, especially against Gladewater,” Feaster said. “Then Huntington (last week), they’ve got some good stuff that they do and they’re tough to stop when they’re healthy.”
He knows his defense will have to play well against Curry and Corey Henderson, the best quarterback and wide receiver combination Parkway will face the rest of the regular season. Both have attracted plenty of attention from college coaches, with Henderson committed to play at Tennessee next season.
Dawson said they’re the leaders of an offense making strides to get better each week and do more to help a defense that has given up just 20 points in three games. Curry said he’s lucky to have a host of good receivers and continues to improve in his third season as a starter.
“I’ve just learned with the coaches, I’m trusting them,” the junior said. “If they tell me to go somewhere with the ball, that’s what I need to do. I need to just be a coachable quarterback and I’ll take care of the rest of it.”
He’s not worried about comparing himself to Wudtee, more of a dual-threat quarterback with his great speed. The Panthers also get significant production out of the backfield from sophomore running back Robert McKnight, who may carry even more of the load after a season-ending injury to Cameron Ashley last week.
Dawson expects a great crowd for a game that could wind up being pivotal in a hotly contested district race. For now, the focus for both teams doesn’t extend beyond this Friday, although Feaster emphasized the importance of getting to 4-0 with a matchup against the defending champs on the horizon.
“We know that Byrd’s coming to our place,” Feaster said. “More than likely they’re going to beat Captain Shreve (Thursday) and they’re going to be undefeated. I want my kids to experience that kind of atmosphere like they have before.”