EVANS - Levar Johnson knew this year, he'd get his big break to shine on defense for Evans.
"It's my turn now to make this the year of the defense at Evans," said the senior linebacker after the Knights defeated North Augusta 14-7, Friday night at Blanchard Stadium. "Evans has always been known for its great offense, but tonight, I think we proved that the defense is what's gonna win football games for us."
It was the first matchup between the once-heated rivals since 1990, when North Augusta beat the Knights 20-12.
After Evans scored twice early on TD runs by fullback Spencer Crunk and quarterback B.J. Long to take a 14-7 lead at halftime, Johnson and the Knights defense sealed it in the second half against an athletic and speedy Yellow Jackets offense.
Trailing 14-0, North Augusta (1-2) scored late in the second quarter when junior Patrick Wright capped the 12-play drive with a 15-yard TD.
On the Jackets opening drive of the second half, Johnson intercepted a Matt Wilson tipped pass at the Evans 35.
"I think that was the turning point for us," said Johnson. "They were driving on us but we sent them away with nothing and took back control of the game. We know the fans come to the game to see the offense, but I think they geteven more fired up when we make a big play like that. We got real hyped after that play defensively, and I think it got our offense going again as well."
Louis Mackie had 106 yards rushing on 19 carries to lead North Augusta, and quarterback Matt Wilson was 14-for-28 passing with three interceptions.
Evans tailback Hunter Morris, who rushed for 224 yards last week in the Knights' 35-14 win over Westside, laid the groundwork on the two first-half scoring drives with 77 yards on 13 carries.
North Augusta made it a defensive battle in the second half, limiting Morris to 39 yards and stopping the Knights on a pair of drives in the third quarter.
But it was the Knights defense again that came through on a North Augusta drive in the fourth quarter to put it away.
"Stopping them on that drive was huge," said Evans coach Jim Connor. "They nearly punched it in on us and tied it, but the defense really stepped up
big." On the 13th play of the drive that began on the North Augusta 22, Jackets quarterback Matt Wilson hit Patrick Wright over the middle on a 15-yard TD pass, but the play was called back on a motion penalty.
On fourth-and-13 from the Knights 27 with 3:18 left in the game, Wilson threw incomplete under heavy pressure, le by senior defensive end J.W. Bradford, and the Knights offense was able to eat up most of the remaining clock.
"I was real proud of the way out guys stepped up their intensity in the second half," said North Augusta coach Gyles Hall. "They weren't ready to play when they got off the bus, but they showed me something in the second half against a good football team."
Despite the scare, Johnson knew he and the defense wouldn't let it get away. Even more impressive, considering the first-time starters on defense for Evans, including junior end Jalan Willingham and sophomore end Brad Milford.
"They played outstanding tonight up front," said Johnson, who made 11 tackles. "If it wasn't for them doing their job, the tackles I made weren't possible.