SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – The men's basketball team opens the 2018-19 season Friday and Saturday at the Coaches vs. Cancer Tournament hosted by Columbia College in Columbia, Missouri.
SERIES HISTORY Evangel has a brief history with both opponents in the tournament, Columbia College and William Woods. The Crusaders trail Columbia, 4-3 in the all-time series as Evangel and William Woods have met just once with the Crusaders winning the only meeting, 76-55 in 2011.
► Evangel tips off the 2018-19 season at the Coaches vs. Cancer Tournament Friday against 6th-ranked Columbia College. The Crusaders face William Woods on Saturday to close tournament play after an exhibition loss at Missouri State Tuesday night.
► The Crusaders were picked to finish 13th in last week's Heart of America Coaches Preseason Poll. Of the 23 losses for Evangel last season, only five have been more than 10 points. In addition, in the 23 losses, 10 were by four points or less and all 13 of the single-digit losses were by fewer than eight points.
► Evangel brings back three seniors led by Luke Call, Chandler Lyon, and Jacob Smith as Braden Adams battles an early season injury. Call returns as the leading scorer after averaging 9.3 points per game, while Lyon averaged 3.6 boards per game.
► A young Evangel squad could see five freshmen earn valuable minutes this season with redshirt, Edriel Martinborough while true freshmen, Cade Coffman (Mtn. Grove, Mo.), Ike Egwu (Little Elm, Texas), and Pavel Antonov ( Vrasta, Bulgaria) will not only battle for minutes but a role in the starting lineup as well.
LOOKING AHEAD Evangel will make its home opener on Tuesday, Nov. 6 against College of the Ozarks in the first meeting of the Rib Crib Highway 65 shootout. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Evangel plays just its second road game of the season Saturday at William Penn where the Crusaders will be looking for their first road victory in the series. Evangel and the Statesmen have met just three times since William Penn joined the league in 2015 with the Statesmen holding a 2-1 lead in the all-time series.
The Crusaders sit at 5-0 for the first time since the 2001 season when Evangel ran the table going 10-0 during the regular season. Evangel finished the year 11-1 after a second-round playoff loss to conference foe Benedictine ended the Crusaders season. It marks the fifth time in program history the Crusaders have started 5-0 joining the 2001, 1997, 1996, and 1988 teams.
Sophomore punter, Raul Avila, was named the Heart of America Athletic Conference Special Teams player of the week. Avila earned his first honor with the Crusaders playing an important role for Evangel flipping the field multiple times in the win over Culver-Stockton. He averaged 45 yards per punt and placed four inside the 20-yard line and also added a season-best 66-yard punt to finish with 363 yards on the day.
A stellar game for junior defensive lineman, Drace Moeller on Saturday saw the Oregon native record his first career interception. Moeller also forced three fumbles, two of which were recovered by Evangel as he now leads the nation in forced fumbles per game averaging one a contest.
Sophomore running back Darrius Lee stepped up for Evangel to finish with his second consecutive 100-yard rushing game of the season. Lee is averaging just below 100-yards per game and his 468 total yards rank 14th in NAIA so far this season.
Senior wide receiver Dallas Hester continues to climb the Evangel record books. Hester joined the all-time top 10 for touchdowns last season and with his seven catches on Saturday moved into a tie for third all-time with 130 catches. Hester sits tied with Anthony Ray (1988-91) and is behind two All-Americans, Jesse Vaughn (2010-13) with 146 and Brandon Schmidly (1994-97) at the top with 148 catches.
Joining Hester in the record books is fellow senior Brady Collier who moved into a tie with Hester for ninth all-time in touchdown receptions. Collier caught his second TD pass of the year and now has 13 receiving touchdowns all-time.