Evangel looks to win state title in new classification
Evangel Christian Academy in 2019 begins a new era for the perennial Louisiana football powerhouse. The Eagles will play in LHSAA 4A classification for the first time ever. The Eagles own championships while placed in every other classification.
Head Coach Byron Dawson knows those 14 state trophies are in his rear view mirror. And he’s having to reload.
Running back Tamauge Sloan set several Evangel records his senior year. He averaged 12 yards a carry and scored 28 touchdowns.
Sloan’s blocking fullback, senior Jake Harville, will pick-up the slack in 2019. He’s a hard-nose runner who loves contact. But it is expected that the Eagles will throw the ball more.
Dawson will rely heavily on his senior quarterback, Blake Shapin (6-1, 185), a two-sport star who is committed to Arizona State in football and baseball. Shapin returns as the Eagle signal-caller with an unblemished 2018 District 1-5A record and 8-4 overall, losing in the state semi-finals to eventual state champion John Curtis.
“Besides Blake’s tremendous athletic ability and knowledge of the game, the three-year starter is a great leader,” Dawson said. “And his receivers love playing for him. They get the job done.”
New Eagles Offensive Coordinator Connor Champion joins longtime Eagles offensive guru Denny Duron.
“Connor is a blessing for us,” Duron said. “He has a ton of knowledge. We were fortunate to get him from Arizona State and our kids love him. He’s brought us some new and innovative ideas that give us a new twist.”
The Evangel defense is Coach Dawson’s baby. He has a storied history in putting prolific defenses on the field each season. In 2018, the Eagle defense allowed 14 points or less in 7 games.
Dawson return both inside linebackers and one defensive tackle, but will replace the balance of the defensive front.
The secondary is young, but has experience.
“We’ve had spring and August to move them around, find who fits best where, and to get reps,” Dawson said. “We’ll have our preseason and Jamboree to fine tune our group back there. We’ll be alright.”
With the move to 4A, that also brings a new district for Evangel. According to Dawson, that means a new group of opponents and new rivalries.
“There are some really good teams here,” said Dawson. “We played in District 1-5A against the biggest programs in this area for a good while. It will be good for our team to take on some different foes. We’re looking forward to it.”
The Eagles always struggle to schedule out-of-district games.
But this year, they will face West Monroe, renewing a heated rivalry of the late 1990’s and early in this millennium.
Evangel will also take on Pulaski Academy from Arkansas, Bastrop, and Lafayette Christian who won back-to-back state championship in Louisiana Division IV the last two seasons.
Playing against such tough competition is nothing new for Evangel.
“We always struggle to schedule early games but we’ve used that to go on the road to face really good teams,” Dawson said. “That always shows us where we’re lacking and what we need to do to be ready for district.”
The West Monroe and Bastrop games are on the road while the Eagles host Pulaski and Lafayette Christian at Rodney Duron Field in Shreveport.
”Reboot” is a common experience almost annually for all high school teams. The Eagles have always done a good job at maintaining the ability to make that happen. An impressive 14 state championships proves that. Eagles fans hope 2019 will prove that again.
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