“Twenty years from now, they’ll be talking about this game.”
That comment summed up the sentiments of local high school football fans after Evangel’s come-from-behind 49-45 victory over Byrd on Sept. 21, 2000.
Many in the crowd of 9,000 spectators at Caddo Parish Stadium (which is now Lee Hedges Stadium) thought it was the greatest high school game they had ever seen. But I wasn’t one of them.
It was a great offensive performance by both teams. But neither team’s defense came close to stopping the other. “To be honest,” said Evangel coach Dennis Dunn, “they kicked our butts all over the field. We were very fortunate to win.”
Evangel quarterback Brent Rawls completed 22 of 37 passes for 465 yards and three touchdowns. Rawls also ran for 41 yards and two more touchdowns to account for 506 of Evangel’s 533 yards total offense. That ranked No. 2 on the all-time Evangel list at that time behind Josh Booty’s 538 yards against LaSalle (Olla) in 1992, when Evangel was in Class A.
Three Evangel receivers had more than 125 yards. Thomas Bachman had eight catches for 130 yards, Ahmad Lewis had four catches for 136 yards and Kenneth Brantley had six catches for 129 yards.
Byrd’s Brandon Nightingale had a 72-yard touchdown run on the first play of the game. He finished the game with a career high 323 yards in 21 carries, averaging 15.4 yards per attempt.
Nightingale fumbled on a 68-yard run with seven minutes remaining in the game. He was in the clear at the 15-yard line when the ball popped out, bounced into the end zone and was recovered by Evangel’s Cody Allison for a touchback.
Nightingale used his performance against the Eagles as the springboard to a season in which he shattered the school season rushing record and won berths on both the sports writers’ All-State team and the coaches’ All-State team.
Byrd’s best chance to win would’ve been to allow the Eagles to score quickly. Evangel called several running plays in a nine-play touchdown drive that required 4:43 minutes, taking more time than any of the other 13 touchdown drives (seven by each team).
Byrd nearly pulled the game out of the fire anyway. In the last 30 seconds, quarterback Terrell Clayton threw a pass that a receiver with a clear path to the goal line dropped at the Evangel 10 yard-line.
Nightingale’s 323 yards rushing ranked third in Byrd’s 75-year history at that time. It was also the only time anybody had gained that many yards against Evangel.
The difference in the score was two-point conversions. Evangel made two of its three attempts, while Byrd was 0-for-3.
Evangel and Byrd both won all of their remaining games to finish 1-2 in District 1-5A. Both teams earned home field advantage in the opening round of state playoffs, Nightingale and Rodney Hill both had over 1,000 yards rushing for the Yellow Jackets. That made Byrd the first Caddo-Bossier school with two 1,000-yarders since Rudy Estess and Jim West did it for Airline in 1965, the Vikings’ second football season.
It was also the first time Evangel beat a team that scored as many as 45 points, and the first time Byrd lost a game in which it scored 45 points. Rawls averaged 317.9 yards total offense per game in the 2000 season, highest for an Evangel player since Josh Booty set the school record in 1992 with 373.8.
Jerry Byrd is the former sports editor of the Bossier Press-Tribune and an award-winning columnist. You can contact him by E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org