When it comes to strength of schedule, Evangel Christian Academy doesn’t take a back seat to anyone in the state.
Take their 2016 slate for example. The Eagles kick off on Sept. 2 at Allen (Texas) High, one of the top five largest schools in Texas, which went 14-1 last season and advanced to the Texas 6A Division I semifinals.
The Texas Eagles will host the Louisiana Eagles in their $60 million, 18,000-seat stadium where they have been almost unbeatable over the past few seasons. Allen has nearly 5,000 students in grades 9-12. Evangel has less than 700 in grades K-12.
Following Allen is a home date with two-time LHSAA Class 4A state champion Neville, which was undefeated last season, followed by another 4A power in LaGrange. After those three “breathers” comes 5A state title contender Parkway in the district opener.
“It’s the culture around here, and it’s been that way throughout my 11 years (three as head coach) here at Evangel,” coach Byron Dawson said. “I remember in 2005 we played Dez Bryant’s Lufkin team, which was ranked No. 1 in the country. They barely beat us, so they dropped down and South Lake Carroll moved up to No. 1. We played them the second week.”
Evangel enters the season with a lot of hope and the promise of a strong 2016 campaign after going 9-3 last fall and advancing to the Division I semifinals. The Eagles return 17 starters off the team that finished tied with Parkway and Byrd for the 1-5A title in their first season back in the league.
The Eagles will be solid up front offensively behind returnees Cameron Davis, Alvin Ford, Ethan Harvey, Tanner Coleman and Kenneth Stokes. That group should give returning quarterback Connor Curry the time to find Tanner Ash and company down field.
Curry was impressive last season throwing 1,523 yards and 19 touchdowns with eight of them going to Ash.
“We play in probably the toughest district in the state and our goal is always to win state,” Dawson said. “Last year we were new to the league where all of the coaches in our district do a great job.”
Evangel had the best defense in the league last season, allowing just 144 points during the regular season despite playing another powerhouse schedule. The squad will be led by returnees Davin Cotton at noseguard, Aaron Calcote at defensive end, Bobby Bell at linebacker, Jarrick Bernard at strong safety and Ardarius Washington at free safety.
They’ll need every weapon they can find to withstand the daunting schedule.
“We believe that iron sharpens iron, so if you play great opponents, you get sharper. We’ll prepare for the challenge,” Dawson said. “In the case of Allen, no one wanted to play them, so they called us and asked about playing. No one wants to play us, so it was a perfect marriage. I signed the contract and it’ll be a great experience for our kids.”
Coach: Byron Dawson
2015 record: 9-3 overall; 4-1 District 1-5A; Division I semifinals
Key game: Sept. 2 vs. Allen. Coach Byron Dawson said the Eagles are a “next-game” program and Allen is the next game. “So, we are only thinking about them right now,” he said.
Players to watch: QB Connor Curry; LB Bobby Bell; RT Ethan Harvey; DE Aaron Calcote; SS Jarrick Bernard; NG Davin Cotton.
Starters returning: Offense-8; Defense-9
Quotable: “In the case of Allen, no one wanted to play them, so they called us and asked about playing. No one wants to play us, so it was a perfect marriage.” – Byron Dawson
2016 Evangel Schedule
Sept. 2 at Allen
Sept. 9 Neville
Sept. 16 LaGrange
Sept. 23 at Parkway
Sept. 30 University Academy
Oct. 7 at Southwood
Oct. 14 Captain Shreve (LH)
Oct. 21 at Airline
Oct. 28 Haughton
Nov. 4 Byrd
2015 Evangel (9-3)
St. Joseph’s (PA) L 14-0
Warren Easton W 21-6
Idabel, Okla. W 62-0
Parkway W 56-21
LaGrange W 34-12
Southwood W 51-6
Captain Shreve W 52-3
Airline W 37-7
Haughton W 45-21
Byrd L 16-24
Holy Cross W 42-7
Catholic-BR OT L 21-27