Defensive battles are what you make of them and Evangel Christian Academy certainly made the most their matchup with Airline Friday night on Viking Drive within eye-shot of I-220.
An 18-wheeler rollover from the interstate couldn’t have done more damage than the defensive scheme designed by mastermind Byron Dawson (of LSU fame), and his coaching staff.
The Eagles, who shared the District 1-5A title with Byrd and Parkway last year, took command of the league race Friday by dominating the Vikings 45-7 after obliterating Parkway earlier this season. Sure, Haughton and Byrd still have a chance to knock of this powerhouse defense in the final two weeks of the regular season. Good luck with that.
Evangel’s D, led by the uncontrollable mammoth Davin Cotton, bone-crunching hitter ArDarius Washington and rock-solid Aaron Calcote, came within 45 seconds of posting their fourth consecutive shutout.
Washington and Jarred Bernard posted pick-6s on both sides of the intermission to cement what Dawson preaches day in and day out.
“I’m proud of the way our defense played – they gave us 110 percent on every play and got us some stops until our offense got rolling,” Dawson said. “And my hat’s off to our offensive line of Cameron Davis, Tanner Coleman, Ethan Harvey, Christian Perry and Alvin Ford. They did the job tonight.”
Friday’s terror began with Washington picking off a Brad Fream pass and rolling down the right sideline for a 65-yard pick-6 to put the Eagles ahead 10-0 (Seth Green had earlier hit a 28-yard field goal for the only first-quarter scoring and it came after Evangel blocked a punt). Airline’s defense had been playing a stellar game at that point despite the Viking offense giving the visitors short fields. Courtney Turner made one outstanding, fourth-down tackle at the five to stop one Evangel scoring drive.
But it was just a matter of time until Connor Curry and crew found an opening to their advantage. Curry hit Josh Walker for a 46-yard score and Caleb LaBoy for a 33-yarder in the final six minutes of the first half to put the Vikings in a 24-0 deficit.
It was a hole impossible to climb out of especially after Fream and senior running back Brian Fielding were eliminated from the game in the first half with injuries.
“We knew we had to play mistake-free football tonight and we didn’t do that,” Airline coach Bo Meeks said. “We have to learn from this and get prepared for our next game. We’ll have to evaluate our injuries, but I’m proud of the way the guys in there battled.”
Washington said his defensive line set up his interception.
“I was just in the right place at the right time,” Washington said. “I knew once I got it I was going to take it to the house.”
It was senior night for the Vikings, but it was the wrong night for much of a celebration. The lone score came from back-up quarterback Hunter Mathewes, hit Nate Fullilove for a 2-yard score to help the Vikings save some face.
That ended Evangel’s streak of 18 consecutive quarters without allowing a touchdown.
And there’s something to be said for that.