Evangel’s comeback attempt falls short in 28-21 loss

OZARK, Mo. – Despite battling back from a double-digit halftime deficit, Evangel dropped a 28-21 Heart South Divisional contest to MidAmerica Nazarene Saturday afternoon at Tiger Stadium. Jairan Manning’s three-yard scoring run with 3:02 remaining in the game proved to be the difference, as the Pioneers notched their first victory of the season.

Just 43 seconds after Evangel evened the score on a 41-yard Dyllan Decker-to-Joshua Tips scoring pass, Manning followed a 76-yard completion to Caleb Tanis with the game’s decisive run to hand first-year head coach and former Evangel standout Paul Hansen his first victory as the Pioneers’ sideline boss.

The Pioneers (1-3, 1-0) racked up 570 yards of total offense, led by Blake Atkins 358 yards on 23-of-38 passing. Manning led all rushers with 79 yards on 17 carries, and Tanis totaled 131 receiving yards on seven catches.

After gaining just 107 yards of total offense in the opening half, the Crusaders (1-4, 0-2) rebounded to outscore MNU 14-0 in the third period to knot the score. An 18-yard rush by Sam Buckner sparked EU’s 10-play, 64-yard scoring drive to open the second half, and Decker’s one-yard keeper put the Crusaders on the board.

MNU answered by driving to the Evangel 12, only to see the Crusader defense turn back surge to force a 29-yard field goal try. Pablo Pereira’s boot was blocked by Jalen Harris, and the EU offense cashed in immediately, as Decker found a wide-open Darrius Lee for an 80-yard touchdown toss that evened the score at 14-14 with 4:13 to play in the period.

Each defense registered takeaways in the early stages of the fourth quarter, and the Crusaders appeared to come up with another stop to force a Pioneer punt with just 7:05 to play. But Jon Roseme took a direct snap on a fake attempt and outraced the EU defense to the end zone for a 61-yard scoring run and a 21-14 MNU advantage.

Evangel once again had a response, as Decker engineered a 60-yard march by completing three of four passes, including a 41-yard scoring strike to Joshua Tips to pull the Crusaders even again.

But Atkins found Tanis open over the middle and the freshman nearly legged out a touchdown before being stopped at the EU 3-yard line.

Following Manning’s go-ahead TD run, the MNU defense stopped EU on four downs to regain possession. The Crusaders would get one final crack, regaining the ball after a missed 43-yard field goal try. But time would expire with EU still 63 yards away from the end zone, handing the Crusaders their second-straight conference loss.

MNU built its 14-point halftime lead on a pair of long Atkins scoring passes. The sophomore signal-caller connected with Torin Owolabi on a 54-yard first-quarter touchdown, then capped off a 90-yard scoring drive with a 53-yard pass to Kobe Hardin early in the second period.

Decker powered the Evangel offense, completing 18-of-29 passes for 243 yards and a pair of touchdown passes to go along with his third-quarter scoring run. Lee rushed for 45 yards and hauled in three catches for 87 yards.

Koel Orchard led all tacklers with 14 stops, and Ryder Grantham recorded 10 tackles (1.5 for losses) and recovered a fumble to lead the EU offense.

Evangel will travel to Marshall, Mo., next Saturday (Oct. 31) for a 1 p.m. game against Missouri Valley.

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