Shreveport Evangel Christian emerged from the elimination bracket to win its first annual Evangel 7-on-7 National Championships football title.
Evangel downed Lake Charles LaGrange twice, including 21-10, in the final game after losing to LaGrange in the semifinals. Evangel, the defending Class 2A state runner-up, ousted Belton to set up the return matches with LaGrange.
“I was sick of going to the last play with LaGrange,” said Evangel offensive coordinator Thomas Bachman, whose team lost in the semifinals on a last-second touchdown pass. “The defense played great, and we just tried to manage it offensively. It felt good to have the defense play as well as they did in the championship game. It took a lot of pressure off us.”
The Eagles used some late-game heroics to edge LaGrange, 32-30, and force a deciding second game. LaGrange scored a 1-yard touchdown with 15.5 seconds left to go ahead, 30-25.
Evangel had two plays left, and the first ended in an incompletion. On the game’s final play, quarterback David Dee Duron found Eric Thomas in the front corner of the end zone.
“Wow,” LaGrange coach Jules Sullen said. “We knew coming in we’re at one of the great institutions for high school football in the United States, and we knew they'd be able to make plays. Our thing is to perhaps one day reach a status as Evangel. I can't say the Hail Mary deflated us. We knew it was coming. We tried to defend it and he made a great catch.”
Evangel took a 15-0 lead in the championship game on Judah Jones’ over-the-shoulder touchdown catch and Thomas' first scoring reception before he was forced to leave with a severe cramp in his lower left leg. Pipkin added a pair of interceptions and scored the final points of the tournament after his second theft.
"We didn't want to lose," Pipkin said. "We had fun and played hard. (Thomas) is awesome. He's long. He can jump. He's physical. He's a good receiver. They worked with him, and he's getting better. I grew up with him. We've been together since we were little and I'm glad it's him doing what he's doing."
The 20-team tournament featured teams from Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and Kansas. LaGrange was seeded fourth and Evangel sixth. Arlington, Texas, drew the top seed.
Ascension Christian taking step up
Ascension Christian of Gonzales isn’t nearly ready to participate in a 7-on-7 tournament the magnitude of which was held in Shreveport. In fact, there is some question as to how prepared Ascension Christian is for its first season of football.
After joining the Louisiana High School Athletic Association as a non-football Class C school last year, Ascension Catholic will move up to Class 1A this coming season. It won’t compete for district honors and will play only three varsity games.
Ascension Christian will open the season against Metairie Ecole Classique before playing Ascension Episcopal of Cade and Pointe Coupee Central. Ascension Episcopal also is making the leap from Class C to Class 1A.
Ascension Christian has a high school enrollment of about 100. Approximately 15 to 18 players have been working out this summer.
“When I first came down here, I didn’t know what to expect,” said Coach Ross Holden, a former assistant coach at Baton Rouge Glen Oaks whose wife teaches at Ascension Christian. “To be honest with you, I’ve been blown away.
“Now we don’t have a lot of kids, but the ones we have do work hard. Their chemistry, and the way they’ve picked up what we’re trying to teach them, has blown me away.”
Ascension Christian belongs to the Household of Faith Church that also supports an elementary-middle school in Faith Academy. Two years ago many of the current varsity players finished the middle-school season undefeated at 10-0. The Lions’ resources are limited and they don’t have enough helmets to take part in formal summer activities, including 7-on-7 passing camps.
“I guess the numbers are the thing that really concerns me,” Holden said. “I’m hoping we’ll be able to pick up a few more guys before the school year starts. I think things will pick up as we go along with it. This is all new.”
Holden, 30, plans to install the Wing-T offense. For now, though, workouts have centered on weightlifting and conditioning.
“This is something I’ve been waiting two years for,” sophomore tight end Aaron Lanclos said. “I played on the eighth-grade team for Faith, and we knew we had to wait through last year without football.
“Not many people know we have a football team. I make it a point to tell everyone I meet. Hopefully, that will get more people interested.”
In addition to the 6-foot-1, 180-pound Lanclos, running back Troy Davis and quarterback Matthew Hadley have shown themselves to be leaders.
“We’re going to have a lot learn,” Holden said. “But I think we’re all excited about the possibilities.”
Denham Springs’ Nettles wins national award
Not only has Denham Springs football coach and athletic director Dru Nettles found success through victories, but he’s achieved a measure of national acclaim for the manner in which he relates to his student-athletes.
Nettles was one of only 41 coaches from across the country to receive the 2009 Liberty Mutual Responsible Coaching Award. Nettles won for the state of Louisiana and with it the $250 he received to help offset the cost of his program.
Nettles guided Denham Springs to a share of its district title last season, as the Yellow Jackets made their first playoff appearance since 1995. More than 500 coaches were nominated for the award by parents and peers.
The award is presented by the Liberty Mutual Responsible Sports program, an online community that uses blogs, videos and curriculum to reinforce the positive role coaches and parents play in the lives of young people. Judging for the award is based on coaching competence, achieving and maintaining excellence on the field and demonstrating a continued commitment to the well-being and development of student-athletes off the field.
Track and field: Former Episcopal standout honored again
It wasn’t enough that Ricky Sheldon capped his career at Baton Rouge Episcopal with two individual state titles and the Class 2A team outdoor crown.
Now he’s added to his long list of accomplishments with his selection as the Gatorade Louisiana Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
“It’s a really big honor … the biggest I’ve received,” Sheldon said. “Because it’s on a larger scale, covering the whole state, it’s really special. It means a lot.”
Sheldon is eligible for the national award to be presented later this summer. A Princeton signee, he won the 110- and 300-meter hurdles at the state meet last month. His time of 13.88 seconds in the 100 was among the top 20 in the nation. He clocked 38.69 in the 300. He placed second in the high jump and anchored Episcopal’s 4x400 relay that placed second.
“He’s been the heart and soul of our track team as long as he’s been here,” Episcopal coach Claney Duplechin said. “This is a great honor for him. He’s very deserving.”
Sheldon also played football and basketball for Episcopal. He was the football team’s leading receiver and a key reserve in basketball. He carried a 3.72 grade point average and was president of his senior class.