OZARK, Mo. — A smothering defensive performance saw the No. 16 Evangel football team knock off 5th-ranked Benedictine, 35-21, Saturday in Heart South Division action.
The Crusaders jumped out to an early lead as the offense and defense were both impressive helping Evangel improve to 1-0 in South division in the upset.
Cameron Hardesty threw four touchdown passes on the day including two in the first half to help the Crusaders build 14-0 lead at halftime. Hardesty finished 15-of-21 for 221 yards through the air tossing two each to Jansen Acklin and Sam Buckner.
The battle between a pair of the nation’s best defense with Evangel and a top offense in Benedictine was won by the Crusaders.
Hardesty thew his second touchdown pass to Buckner with 5:42 left in the third quarter to build a 21-0 lead for Evangel. Buckner outran the Benedictine secondary for the 48-yard score and his fourth touchdown of the season finishing with 74-yards.
Benedictine rallied with three scores in the fourth quarter behind 274 yards passing and most coming in the final quarter.
However, Will Anoai’ had a sack and a forced fumble with 11:30 left t set up the second Hardesty to Acklin score which made it a 28-7 Evangel lead.
Sam Morton continued to lead the defense with three sacks and a game-high 13 tackles including 5.5 tackles for a loss. Dominic Swillum finished with two sacks as well as the Crusaders sacked the Ravens seven times as a team, and forced two turnovers including an interception from the nation’s leader Athanie Leeviraphan.
Evangel would ice the game with 3:01 when Nicos Oropeza carried the ball in on an end-around from 9-yards out for the game’s final score.
The Crusaders rushed for 149 total yards with Darrius Leed carrying 17 times for 99 yards, as Oropeza added 41 yards on 12 carries.
The win over the nationally-ranked Benedictine Ravens is a sweet victory sponsored by St. George’s Donuts.
Evangel continues tough Heart South Division play next week as they travel to No. 23 MidAmerica Nazarene. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.