Evangel head coach Brenton Illum wants a defensively minded football team.
Click here for photos
So, the 608 yards of total offense racked up by his Crusaders in a 45-23 Heart of America Athletic Conference rout over Culver-Stockton Saturday night at JFK Stadium is just a bonus.
“We met goals on both sides of the ball tonight,” said Illum. “We have really worked with our receiving core and now we have about six guys that we feel can make plays,” Illum finished.
Headlining Evangel’s talented group of receivers is junior Jesse Vaughn who topped his opening week performance of 154 yards with a career-high 191 yards on just four catches.
After an opening-drive field goal by the Wildcats, Vaughn got going on Evangel’s first play from scrimmage when quarterback Andrew Brimhall rolled right and found the streaking Vaughn behind the entire Culver-Stockton defense for a 69-yard score, putting Evangel ahead 7-3 at the end of the first.
The second quarter saw Evangel add a field goal while holding the Wildcats scoreless, thanks to a huge play by the Crusaders’ secondary.
Junior Cam Buffett, a Fair Grove product, made a leaping, diving interception to stall a Wildcat drive, and depriving Culver-Stockton of a valuable scoring opportunity.
The second-half would see the Crusaders score just three minutes in, on a 15-yard Brimhall pass to sophomore receiver Shawn Hebert to make it a 17-3 game.
After forcing another 3-and-out, Brimhall found Vaughn again, this time for a 60-yard score, extending Evangel’s lead to three touchdowns.
“Jesse is a great player at our level. Really, Jesse could play at any level,” said Illum.
Brimhall would finish the game with 415 yards, just 48 yards shy of the Evangel single-game record set in 2003 by Brett Mitchell.
But Saturday wasn’t just an aerial attack.
The Crusaders rolled up 169 yards on 41 carries. Senior Tommy Meyer shouldered the bulk of the load, gaining 85 yards on 21 carries and a touchdown.
However, sophomore receiver turned running back Otis Brown dazzled fans with his elusiveness and game-breaking speed.
“Otis is extremely talented. We had him at receiver but because of our depth at the position and we were able to move him over to running back,” said Illum.
Brown collected 68 yards on just 11 carries and a touchdown. More impressively, Brown turned a short check down reception into a highlight reel 74-yard gain before being knocked out of bounds at the 1-yard line.
“He is very strong for a little guy (450-pound squatter) and a very aggressive runner with the ball in his hands. The transition will be smooth because he’s such a natural,” said Illum.
Evangel’s defense was also firing on all cylinders, allowing just 280 yards of total offense. The Wildcats could only muster 47 rushing yards against the stout Crusader defense.
“We allowed a couple of long drives to start the game, but we made some great adjustments and played some really good football. I’m really proud of all the senior leaders we have on our defense,” said Illum.
Despite the blowout win, there are some things for Evangel to correct heading into next week’s game with Nicholls State (La.), mainly penalties and turnovers.
“It was a sloppy win; there are a lot of things eating at me that we need to fix. False starts and late hits are just not acceptable,” said Illum.
Nicholls State, a Football Championship Series (D-1AA) school, beat Evangel last year 42-0. Saturday’s kickoff will be at 6 p.m. in Thibodaux, Louisiana.