For the first time since 2004, the Evans football team has earned a spot in the state playoffs.
With a 14-13 win at Glynn Academy, the Knights (7-2, 6-2 Region 3-AAAA) were one of two teams in the region who clinched a state playoff bid over the weekend. The Ware County Gators (7-2, 7-1) also guaranteed themselves a trip to the state tournament with a 42-7 win over Richmond Academy.
Evans' win wasn't quite that easy. The Knights had to pull a come-from-behind, last-minute victory to ensure themselves a spot in the state tournament.
"That one was bigger than the win over Statesboro," Evans football coach Marty Jackson said. "It's because of all the playoff implications this one had."
Evans, on a two-game losing skid, was close to a must-win situation as they made the four-hour bus ride to Brunswick, Ga. for the rare Saturday afternoon game. Two weeks earlier, the Knights saw their undefeated streak come to an end with a big loss to Brunswick in Glynn County Stadium. Back in that same stadium to face Glynn Academy, the stakes were even higher on Saturday.
"We changed our routine up a little bit on the way down there," Jackson said. "We got down there with more time and had a much better attitude on the bus."
Both teams were held scoreless through the first half of play, but it didn't take long for Evans to hit the scoreboard first in the second half. The Knights started the third quarter with Tevin Nelson's 51-yard kickoff return into Glynn Academy territory. Two plays later, Evans tailback Jonathan Finch scored on a 17-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead.
The Red Terrors responded with a touchdown and two field goals to take a 13-7 advantage. The Knights got the ball back on their own 20 yard line with 4:40 left in the fourth quarter.
It was the ultimate gut-check situation for Evans quarterback Kevin Millward and his offense.
"I felt confident," Millward said. "The whole night we were driving on them so we felt like we could move the ball."
Millward led the late charge, but the drive nearly stalled before the Knights could reach midfield with a fourth down-and-12 situation. Senior receiver Jonathan Nicely came to the rescue.
"That did it. Jonathan's big fourth-down catch really gave us some confidence," Millward said.
Millward's 24-yard pass to Nicely set up Evans with a first down on the Glynn Academy 31-yard line. The drive continued, and Millward later connected with Nelson on a long pass that ended with the Knights at first-and-goal on Glynn Academy's one yard line.
Millward punched it in from one yard out with 1:01 left for the game-winning touchdown.
The Knights, with only two region losses this year, will play in their final home game of the regular season when Wayne County ( 1-8, 1-7) comes to town.
With a win over the Yellow Jackets, Evans could do no worse than finish third in the final region standings
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