Springwood dominates AISA championship rematch in convincing win over Evangel
Published 11:47 pm Friday, September 1, 2023
Friday night’s Evangel Christian-Springwood School game was heralded as a rematch of the AISA 8-man state championship game.
Springwood head coach Joey Burch said his team didn’t focus on any sort of revenge factor, noting that both teams are very different than they were 10 months ago when Evangel won the title. Whatever the motivation for the Wildcats was, it worked. Springwood dominated every facet of the game Friday in a 51-16 beatdown.
“We have a different team, they have a different team,” Burch said when asked whether last year’s title game was motivation. “They are very athletic, fast, big, strong, so we knew it was going to be a challenge, so we focused on that more than we did on revenge from last year,” Burch noted Springwood graduated 11 seniors and Evangel also lost a lot of seniors from last year’s teams.
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CJ Johnson scored five touchdowns on a night where it felt like every carry resulted in positive yards, many going for first downs. The Wildcats had great success running around the right side of the offensive line, especially in the third quarter, when they extended a 27-16 halftime lead to 43-16.
“You throw Brayden Moseley and Dylan Reeves and Eli Johnson, those guys are on that right side. Tucker Sides is our center, and our right guard is Jackson Hudson. They did a great job of getting into their chests and moving their feet,” Burch said. “CJ is always the first one to thank his linemen because he knows he can’t do it without them.”
Reeves was everywhere, blocking a punt early to give Springwood great field position to set up the Wildcats first touchdown, which was a Johnson 4-yard touchdown. On Evangel’s ensuing drive, Reeves picked off an Evangel pass at the Springwood 4-yard line, stopping a deep drive before the game could be tied. Reeves dove and somehow secured the ball on the play.
He also contributed offensively, setting up the next Johnson touchdown with a long run around right end to the Springwood 4-yard-line. That Johnson score made it 13-0.
Later in the night, with the result in hand, Reeves scored the game’s final touchdown on a 23-yard run.
“He’s a great leader of the team. He’s a great help to me,” Burch said of Reeves. “He’s great a football mind.”
After the Johnson touchdown that made it 13-0, Springwood dialed up an onside kick and recovered. It appeared the game was about to get ugly, but quarterback Luke Hudson fumbled deep in Evangel territory on a play where it was close on whether or not his knee touched the ground before the ball came out.
Evangel answered, making it 13-8, and then stopped Springwood for the first time as the Wildcats went backward and ended up facing a third-and-20.
However, after a punt, Springwood stood tall, getting a stop on defense. On the next possession, Johnson — again – scored to make it 21-8 with 4:49 left in the second quarter.
“We had a gut check and had to suck it up,” Burch said. “We had some young guys get injured, had some young guys have to step up and fill in. I was really proud of our team that it was able to do that. That’s more consistent than we were last year as far as being able to fill in and having some depth.”
Evangel immediately answered with a touchdown pass that made the score 21-16.
Hudson answered with a 38-yard touchdown pass to Greg Johnson, who was wide open, that made it 27-16 at the half.
Johnson added two more touchdowns in the third quarter, which made it 43-16, and Reeves touchdown was the final score of the night.
The Wildcats had one more highlight thanks to Linus Wanninger, who had a one-handed interception to end Evangel’s last drive of the evening.
The night was also special beyond the field as the Springwood came together to support Burch’s wife, Paula, who was recently diagnosed with lymphoma. There were signs everywhere featuring green ribbons, green balloons and the players wore green socks.
“Green is her color for lymphoma,” Burch said. “… They wanted to show her a little bit of love. That’s the great thing about Springwood. It’s a great family to be a part of. They’ve just opened their hearts and just poured out for us, and we can’t thank it enough for all they’ve done for us… We’re just a big family here.”