Evergreen came into the season with some big-play potential, and the Plainsmen reached that potential on Friday night.
Jaylen Fite caught seven passes for 195 yards and two touchdowns and JJ Woodin threw four touchdown passes as Evergreen opened the season with a 34-22 win over Prairie at McKenzie Stadium.
“It was awesome,” said Woodin, a transfer from Lake Oswego, Ore. “I was just so thankful for the opportunity because you know our season almost got canceled. This means everything to me. These six games are crucial. I’m just going to go all out and give everything I got to this team, and make it the best it can be.”
Woodin said he was looking forward to chance to throw the ball to Evergreen’s speedy receivers. He completed three pass plays of 64 yards or greater.
But the first big play was supplied by the defense. Junior Jordon Baum picked up a Prairie fumble and returned it 14 yards for a score and an early 6-0 Evergreen lead.
Prairie countered with Dustin Shelby rushing seven times for 66 yards on the next drive to take an 8-6 lead.
Two plays later, Evergreen struck its first big play on offense when Woodin hit Jonathan Landry in the flat and the speedy sophomore went 64 yards for a touchdown and a 13-8 lead.
In the second quarter, Woodin completed a 67-yard pass to Fite, setting up Ely Del Angel’s 30-yard field goal, putting Evergreen up 16-8.
Fite’s 23-yard touchdown catch gave Evergreen a 22-8 lead with 3:22 left in the half. When the Evergreen defense recovered a Prairie fumble, the Plainsmen struck again, this time Landry pulling a 31-yard touchdown pass from Woodin.
But when Shelby left the game in the second quarter with an injury, Prairie showed no quit in the second half.
“I completely expected that,” Evergreen coach Christian Swain said. “Number 1, Coach (Mike) Peck is one of the best coaches that I’ve ever been around. He does a good job with his program. He stayed calm, kept running the ball (and) sticked to the game plan. And they did a great job of kind of methodically holding onto the ball.”
Dion Garrett caught a 44-yard touchdown pass from Brandon Baum to get Prairie within 28-14.
The Prairie defense kept the Evergreen offense at bay in the second half. And when the Falcons recovered a fumble inside the Evergreen 10, Baum cashed it in with a 3-yard touchdown run that cut the Plainsmen’s lead to 28-22 with 7:07 left.
That’s when Evergreen pulled out another big play. Two plays later, Woodin hit Fite for a 69-yard touchdown pass for the clinching score with 6:05 left.
“You kind of pick your poison with JJ,” Swain said. “If you’re going to try to back the box and blitz us, that quarterback is pretty good, so you better be able to cover, because we’ve got some playmakers. And his escapability has really improved over the last year. He was able to get out of there and make plays.”
Landry added three catches for 93 yards and two touchdowns and intercepted two passes on defense. Woodin passed for 339 yards.
Swain was pleased with how his team played. But most importantly, he was glad they got to play.
“I’m just so happy for these kids,” Swain said. “I’ve been coaching for 23 years, so I had a next season. But our seniors don’t. And for a lot of juniors and sophomores, these are precious memories. And I’m just glad they got to have this.”
EVERGREEN 34, PRAIRIE 22
Prairie 8 0 6 8—22
Evergreen 13 15 0 6—34
E – Jordon Baum 14 fumble return (kick failed)
P – Dustin Shelby 3 run (Shelby run)
E – Jonathan Landry 64 pass from JJ Woodin (Ely Del Angel kick)
E – Del Angel 30 FG
E – Jaylen Fite 23 pass from Woodin (kick failed)
E – Landry 31 pass from Woodin (pass failed)
P – Dion Garrett 44 pass from Brandon Baum (pass failed)
P – Baum 3 run (Baum run)
E – Fite 69 pass from Woodin (pass failed)
RUSHING – Prairie: Shelby 13-77, Alexander Ford 15-54, Baum 11-40, Ian Davis 1-8, Grayson Weber 1-0. Evergreen: O’Shay Jackson 5-36, Woodin 4-25, Kyle Norton 5-9, Landry 1-2, Tejuan Conde 1-(-7), team 1-(-1).
PASSING – Prairie: Baum 10-23-2-88. Evergreen: Woodin 16-26-0-339.
RECEIVING – Prairie: I. Davis 5-30; Garrett 1-40, Ford 2-11, Joshua Blick 1-6, Nicholas Davis 1-(-3). Evergreen: Fite 7-195, Landry 3-93, Conde 2-8, Jonathan Simon 3-31, Jackson 1-12