ATCHISON, Kan. – Benedictine used a strong defensive effort and a big day from Rayshon Mills to hand Evangel a 24-6 setback in the opening game of Heart of America Athletic Conference divisional play Saturday afternoon at O’Malley Field.
The Ravens limited the Crusader offense to 256 yards while converting two of their three takeaways into 14 points. Benedictine also kept EU off the scoreboard on three of its four trips into the red zone and didn’t allow a single Crusader conversion on third or fourth down.
Evangel’s defense turned in a solid performance as well, holding BC to 77 passing yards, as five different Crusader defenders finished with double-digit tackle totals, led by 12 apiece from Koel Orchard and Ian Ary.
But Mills powered the Ravens’ 256-yard rushing afternoon with 146 yards on the ground, including a pair of touchdowns. BC dominated the time of possession, finishing with over 37 minutes in time of possession.
Benedictine took a 17-6 lead into halftime, thanks to an opportunistic offense that recorded a 75-yard scoring drive to start the game and a Garett Kettle nine-yard touchdown run early in the second period after an Evangel fumble set the Ravens up at the Crusader 30.
After seeing their first offensive drive stall at the BC 43, the Crusaders got on the board late in the first period with some help from its defense. Ary stepped in front of a Kettle pass at the Ravens 16, and Dyllan Decker found Sam Buckner for an 11-yard scoring pass two plays later to pull EU to within 7-6.
The Crusader defense held on its next series as well, forcing a three-and-out punt to give its offense the ball back. But the first of two EU fumbles proved costly, setting up Kettle’s scoring run just 33 seconds into the second period for a 14-6 BC cushion.
Following a second Crusader turnover and subsequent return to the EU 16, Evangel’s defense stood its ground again. Jalen Harris blocked a Matt Heinrich field goal attempt to keep it a one-possession game.
The EU offense followed with a 12-play march to the BC 13, but Brett Shepardson recorded one of his two sacks on the day to thwart the drive at the Ravens 13.
After Taton Hopkins 30-yard field goal try was blocked by Connor Haynes, BC drove 31 yards to set up Heinrich’s successful 51-yard boot as time expired in the half.
Despite a 48-yard completion from Decker to Joshua Tips on the first play of scrimmage in the third period, the EU offense never found its rhythm in the second half. The home club’s defense stopped the Crusaders on a fourth-and-one play at the Ravens 6, then intercepted Decker at the BC 10 early in the fourth period to keep EU off the scoreboard.
The Ravens put the game on ice with an 11-play, 74-yard drive that was capped by Mills six-yard touchdown run with 6:21 left in the game.
Konner Walker led BC with eight tackles, while Joshua Morris registered six stops, picked off a pass and forced a fumble.
Decker completed 17-of-21 passes for 218 yards and the lone EU touchdown of the day, but the Crusader offense went a combined 0-for-8 on third and fourth down conversion attempts. Tips also enjoyed a productive day with a game-high five receptions for 97 yards.
Evangel returns home to Tiger Stadium in Ozark for a 1 p.m. Heart Conference contest with MidAmerica Nazarene next Saturday (Oct. 24).