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Evans wins region title

Posted: November 8, 2017 - 2:58am
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Evans quarterback Damekus Taylor heads upfield in Friday’s victory over Heritage. He led the Knights with 84 rushing yards and also threw a game-winning TD pass.

About an hour after Evans won its first region championship in nine years, the Knights coaching staff sat inside the school Friday night enjoying a post-game meal of hamburgers, hot dogs and more.

Coach Lemuel Lackey enjoyed eating a burger while thinking about what some people told him when he decided to leave Laney for Evans in 2015.

"I had some guys tell me I couldn't win in Columbia County because they're not like inner-city kids," he said. "Good football is good football wherever you go. I said if we train hard and do the things we're supposed to do, we've got a shot. That's always been my thing since Day 1."

The Knights, the Region 3-AAAAAA champs, have their shot, playing host to a first-round home playoff game in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2007-08. Evans plays host to Drew in the first round of the Class AAAAAA playoffs at 7:30 p.m. Friday. With a victory, the Knights will be at home in the second round in two weeks.

Evans rallied late to claim its first region title since 2008. Damekus Taylor tossed a 29-yard touchdown pass to Dedrick Holmes with 2:22 remaining and the Knights held on to defeat Heritage, 42-35 for the championship.

Evans (8-2) finished off a perfect 5-0 region slate and avenged last year's loss at Heritage for the region title.

The Knights scored 40 or more points for the ninth consecutive game and now has 433 points this season.

Evans is a No. 1 seed after finding a way to slow down the potent Heritage passing attack that averaged more 300 yards a contest.

The Knights picked off quarterback Caleb Pruitt four times, with Derrick Canteen and Corey Watkins returning interceptions for touchdowns in the second quarter as Evans bolted out to a 24-0 lead.

Pruitt got in a groove late in the first half, and finished 11 of 23 passing for 194 yards and four touchdowns. After throwing for 300 or more yards in seven of nine contests this season, Pruitt was held to a season low against the Knights.

"Our defense stepped up big tonight," Lackey said. "We got the lead early and I think that kind of broke their momentum. They tried to steal it back, but we hung in there and made some plays when we needed to."

Taylor went 11 of 18 passing for 139 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He also led the Knights with 84 rushing yards.

Taylor came up big when Evans needed him most. Heritage chipped away at the lead and eventually took a 35-34 lead with 8:33 to play on a 13-yard pass from Pruitt to Isaiah Martin.

Evans responded with a 13-play, 80-yard scoring drive. On third and 5 from midfield, Taylor kept the ball on a 9-yard run. On third and 1 from the 31, he rushed for 7 yards. Then on third and 15 from the 29, Taylor found Holmes streaking open down the left side for the touchdown. Taylor then connected with Holmes on the two-point pass play.

Lackey said Taylor called an audible on the winning touchdown pass. He saw the Heritage defense was confused and left Holmes uncovered.

"He called the audible and threw it," Lackey said. "It was perfect."

On Heritage's next drive, Jayden Simpkins crashed a route, making a diving interception to seal the victory.

Evans started the contest with the lead as Max Tyler booted a 31-yard field goal. Then after Watkins scored on a 15-yard run, the Knights added the two pick-sixes.

Heritage got its first break when Chris Jones picked off a Taylor pass and returned it to the Evans 36 late in the first half. Seven plays later, Pruitt punched it in from the 2 for the Patriots' first touchdown with 1:04 left before intermission.

Heritage then caught Evans off-guard with an onside kick. On the second play, Devron Harper took a screen pass and scampered down the left sideline for a 46-yard touchdown.

Evans went into intermission up 24-14.

 

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