Crusaders Open Heart South Division Play Saturday at Benedictine

by Eric Doennig

The Evangel Crusaders (1-2, 0-0) will travel to Atchison, Kan., for a 1 p.m. Heart of America Athletic Conference contest Saturday (Oct. 17) against the Benedictine Ravens (3-1, 0-0) at O’Malley Field.

The Ravens enter Saturday’s game with a 21-15 series edge over the Crusdaders. BC is 12-6 vs. EU in Atchison after winning each of the last five meetings at O’Malley Field dating back to 2009.

► Evangel is coming off its first victory of the 2020 season — a 28-13 win over Clarke (Oct. 10); Benedictine posted a 31-27 victory against Peru State last weekend.

► EU fifth-year head coach Chuck Hepola enters the season with a 29-18 mark as the Crusaders sideline boss; his win total ranks third in school history, trailing only Keith Barefield (66) and Scott Metcalf (44).

► Evangel has won three consecutive Heart Division openers, including a 35-21 victory against Benedictine in last year’s South Division opener at Tiger Stadium.

► The Crusaders rolled up 519 yards of total offense in their win over Clarke last week, topping the 500-yard mark for the first time under Hepola; EU last reached the mark vs. Avila on Nov. 7, 2015.

► Led by 18-of-25 passing for 303 yards from Dyllan Decker, the Crusaders also posted their best single-game passing effort in eight years last Saturday; EU’s 417 yards through the air vs. Clarke represented its top total since a 428-yard aerial attack against Benedictine at Kennedy Stadium on Sept. 29, 2012.

► Darrius Lee enters Saturday’s game needing just 39 yards to reach the 2,000-career mark for all-purpose yardage; the senior from Mansfield, Texas has racked up 1,778 rushing yards for his EU career, including a total of 175 in three previous games vs. Benedictine, during which he averaged 5.1 yards per attempt.

► Sophomore Koel Orchard has led EU in tackles in two of the Crusaders’ first three games of the season, logging nine stops against both CSC and GVU; the safety from Mountain View also forced a fumble and broke up a pass against Clarke and ranks 48th nationally in tackles per game (7.7) for the year.

► Senior receiver Sam Buckner was named the Heart Conference Offensive Player of the Week Monday after hauling in a career-best eight catches for 187 receiving yards vs. Clarke; Buckner recorded a pair of 60+ yard receptions, including the game-clinching 68-yard touchdown pass from RJ Wakley with just under six minutes to play.

► All Evangel games in 2020 will be streamed live on the Heart Network. Fans can download the Heart Conference Network App for AppleTV, Amazon, or Roku and watch Evangel football games on their smart TV or streaming devices.

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