LAFAYETTE — St. Thomas More made a statement Friday night with a 26-0 victory over Evangel, shutting down the Eagles’ high-octane offense before a packed house at Cougar Stadium.
Even coach Jim Hightower was impressed by his team’s performance.
“We’re better than we thought we’d be at this point,” he said, cracking a grin after the Cougars’ second straight shutout.
STM’s defense harassed Eagles quarterback Connor Curry for all four quarters, forcing the freshman into three turnovers.
“Mental mistakes, physical mistakes — these are the things we need to learn from,” Evangel coach Byron Dawson said. “We keep telling our guys, ‘Progress is process.’ ”
William Bellamy played like a savvy veteran in only his fourth start under center for the Cougars. The strong-armed sophomore threw for three touchdowns and did not lose composure despite tossing two picks.
Evangel moved the ball 60 yards in six plays on the game’s opening possession, only to implode in the red zone when a snap sailed over Curry’s head. Alex Scofield scooped up the loose ball for the Cougars.
“That was huge,” Dawson said. “To lose that fumble early in the game really killed the momentum.”
After both squads exchanged punts, STM drew first blood on a 32-yard strike from Bellamy to Louis Dauterive. The Cougars extended their lead to 10 at the end of the first quarter on Gunnar Raborn’s 43-yard field goal.
On the ensuing kickoff, Raborn executed a masterful onside kick inspired by a play that the Louisiana-Lafayette pulled off last week against Akron.
The senior chipped the ball and, 10 yards later, it bounced right into his hands.
“Gunnar is a master at it,” Hightower said. “He’s a real weapon. When you have a kicker, you really appreciate him. When you don’t, you really miss it.”
The Cougars capitalized on the trickery with Bellamy’s 13-yard dart to Kendall Johnson.
Raborn wasn’t finished with the first-half heroics. Serving double duty as the punter, he pinned the Eagles at their own 2-yard line with a perfect pooch. Austin Mosack tackled Jordan Murphy in the end zone for a safety on the next play, giving STM the 19-0 lead at halftime.
“My leg was feeling good tonight,” Raborn said.
The only points in the second half came early in the third, set up by a Spencer Besson interception. Three plays later, Bellamy connected with Connor Broussard for a 27-yard strike.