The Evangel Christian Academy football program is only eight years old. Over the last five years, we have amassed an overall record of 62-8. The Eagles have won three state titles, six district championships, three regional championships, four quarterfinal championships, three semifinal championships and a #20 national ranking by USA TODAY. During that time, we have broken several national team and individual records in the passing and receiving categoires, as well as total offensive yardage. The program has produced eight All-Americans, numerous All-State players and one USA TODAY National Player of the Year, Josh Booty. Three Evangel players have been named Louisiana Player of the Year by Gatorade or USA TODAY. Phillip Deas was the 1996 Louisiana Player of the Year. Abram Booty, Josh's younger brother, now holds almost every national receiving record. He was a three-time All-State player and a 1996 All-American.
1996 was a special year in the history of our school. To give a brief summary of the events leading up to that year, let me start by saying we went from winning back to back Championships in '93 and '94 in the class A division of our state. In 1995 we jumped two classifications to AAA and made a strong run for the state championship that year, falling one game short by losing 31-28 in the semifinals to the eventual state champions. It was after that game that I knew something was missing in our total program.
I remembered the early days of my coaching career when I was an assistant at Southwood High School in Shreveport. We had a BFS clinic that made a huge difference in our program at Southwood. I had incorporated bits and pieces of the program at Woodlawn High School where I was head coach for five years and brought that with me to Evangel. However, I knew there was more. I wanted the Evangel system to be an Upper Limit program. That's when I called Coach Greg Shepard of Bigger Faster Stronger and asked if he would do a clinic for me at Evangel. The magic date was January 5, 1996.
I could stop there and say the rest is history because the 1996 version of Evangel football was different. But I want you to know more. That cold rainy day in January started the sequence of events that would climax in the Louisiana Superdome on December 13,1996. Coach Shepard presented the total BFS program to all our athletes beginning with a presentation of the core lifts, going through the plyometric box jumping, bounding and explosive movement phase to the BFS Dot Drill and the 1-2-3-4 Flexibility Program. As the clinic progressed, you could feel the emotion and sense of TEAM develop in a whole new dimension. As Coach Shepard shared testimonies, facts and talked about goal setting, I could see our player's intensity increase with every aspect of the clinic. To make a long story short, if you haven't experienced a BFS clinic, you are missing one of the most positive, motivating events that I have witnessed in 15 years of coaching.
We wasted no time implementing the entire BFS program. Our kids saw incredible improvement as they competed individually and in groups to break records every day! We saw and continue to see strength and speed increases like never before. The players were changing right before our eyes. I asked each player what their team goal was for 1996. Without exception, the team goal was to go 15-0, win the state championship and be nationally ranked. Immediately we adopted the slogans "Expect A Miracle" and "Keep the Dream Alive". We would need a miracle because on our schedule was the defending 5A state champs, Neville High School. Also scheduled was Archbishop Shaw of New Orleans, a perennial 5A power and 14-time state champion, Haynesville. In workout after workout our players would encourage each other with comments like, "keep the dream alive on every lift", "keep the dream alive on every sprint", or "keep the dream alive on every play". We could feel, as coaches, the expectancy in their hearts as they worked to make each other better.
With a genuine faith in Almighty God and the BFS program in place, we were ready to expect our miracle. We started the season 5-0, defeating the opponents mentioned above. We stormed through our district 5-0 in what we believe to be the strongest AAA district in Louisiana. As most teams were finishing their season, ours was just beginning. The playoffs started and the combined score for the first three opponents was 143-20. We attribute that dominance to the fact that we were indeed bigger, faster and stronger. We won our semifinal contest in an exciting come-from-behind win. Our dream was one game away from becoming a reality. During fourteen weeks of the season our players continued to break records in the BFS program. Our players actually got stronger during the season!
In Louisiana, the state football championships are played in the Superdome in New Orleans. We were on our way to play a strong St. James team that also had a 14-0 record. Coach Shepard was on the sidelines with us to witness what might have been the greatest high school championship game ever played in Louisiana. It was a hard fought, well played, well coached game that ended in a dramatic fashion with Evangel winning 28-27. USA TODAY ranked the Eagles #20 in its final 1996 poll. Our dream had become a reality. The Evangel Eagles believe in Bigger Faster Stronger!
Editor's Note: The Evangel Clinic was one of the most rewarding clinics I have ever done. The athletes were totally responsive to every phase of the BFS program. They were amazingly focused. The entire coaching staff was present and remained intensely enthusiastic throughout the day.
I stayed with the Booty's and that was inspiring. Their son Josh Booty was there and I saw all of his awards like the USA TODAY Football and Baseball Player of the Year awards. Little brother Abram was to be a senior. He proved to be a mature leader as the clinic progressed. It didn't take long to see that he was a blue chipper. Abram ran a 4.4 forty from a stand and had a 38-inch no-step vertical jump. Perhaps most impressive was their father, John Booty who doubles as an assistant football coach and a powerful, dynamic minister. His wife Sonja stated, "John gave up everything to go into the ministry. He could have been a professional football player. I truly believe with all my heart that our sons success in athletics is God's way of honoring him." After being with the Evangel and Booty family, I too believe that.
Coach Dennis Dunn has assembled a staff in which any one of them could be a great head coach. The athletic director, Denny Duron, was an All-America QB at Louisiana Tech. He also coaches football and supports the BFS program for all sports. I was so impressed with the passion and love each coach had in working with the Evangel kids. Each coach spiritually ministers to the players. I know first hand they have saved many kids that might otherwise be in gangs, drugs, or in jail. The coaching staff does a better job off the field than they do on the field and they went 15-0.
Coach Dunn offers his players opportunities for leadership and service. Phillip Deas, the Evangel quarterback, is a straight-A student who has spoken at nursing homes and in prisons. Coach Dunn stated, "Phillip is an outstanding preacher. Our team and our players feel they are doing God's work. They feel they are ministers of His word."
My wife and I were priviledged to be on the fifty yard line with Evangel at the Super Dome. We saw two of the very best teams play that I have ever seen. The teams combined for 928 yards and 46 first downs while playing outstanding, ferocious defense. Evangel realized all of its goals that were established at the clinic: to be 15-0, state champions and nationally ranked. I thank Evangel and all of the players and coaches for allowing me to play my song. They truly are Upper Limit and showed me how to Ride the High Places even higher.
(Pictures will be added at a later date)
Evangel High School is shown doing the BFS Lower Back Glute Stretch and the BFS Hip Flexor Stretch. BFS Clinics inspire each athlete to make sure each phase of strength and conditioning is done with perfect technique. Photos taken at the New Orleans Superdome before Evangel's State Championship game.