EVANSTON — The Evanston Red Devils picked up their second consecutive win over a 3A East Conference opponent with a 48-8 road victory over the Riverton Wolverines on Friday night. Evanston dominated in the trenches, enabling senior tailback Tyus Cornia to again eclipse 200 yards on the ground. Cornia finished with 273 yards on 28 carries, unofficially, with 225 yards in the first half of play. Evanston led 21-0 with one-quarter complete and 35-8 at the half.
The Red Devils received the opening kickoff and started from their own 36-yard line. Relying on the legs of Cornia, senior fullback Pablo Escalante and utility back Angel Rodriguez, the Red Devils would cap an eight-play, 64-yard scoring drive with an 11-yard pass completion from quarterback Seth Lloyd to wide receiver Kody Smith for their first score with 8:45 remaining in the first quarter. The PAT by Escalante was good and Evanston led 7-0.
The Wolverines took advantage of an out-of-bounds kickoff and advanced the ball from their own 36 to midfield before being forced to punt.
The Red Devils took over from their own 32-yard line and struck immediately for their second score. Cornia took the hand-off and raced 68 yards for his first of three touchdowns on the night. Escalante’s kick was again true and the Red Devils owned a 14-0 lead at the 6:58 mark of quarter number one.
Riverton began its second offensive possession from its own 23-yard line on the ensuing kickoff. The Wolverines went for it on a fourth down and inches and achieved the necessary yardage for a first down, but the play was negated by a penalty, forcing a punt.
Evanston took over at the Riverton 47 yard-line with 6:02 remaining in the first quarter. Seven plays later, the Red Devils scored their third touchdown of the night on a 10-yard scoring strike from Lloyd to Cris Periman. The point-after-touchdown was good and with 2:27 remaining in the opening quarter, Evanston was up 21-0.
Riverton began from its own 14 and the Red Devil defense forced a three-and-out punting situation with 54 seconds left in the quarter.
The Red Devils enjoyed good to excellent field position most of the night, with their fourth possession beginning at the Riverton 44-yard line following the punt by the Wolverines. With the ground game opening up the passing attack, Lloyd connected with Rodriguez on a 26-yard pass to advance the ball to the Riverton 15 yard line. Four consecutive Cornia runs gave the Red Devils their fourth score on the night, with the senior tailback sweeping in from two-yards out. With 9:40 remaining in the second quarter, Evanston led 28-0.
The Red Devils held Riverton to another three-and-out punting situation, but the Wolverines would force a turnover near midfield as they stripped and recovered a Red Devil fumble.
Starting from the Evanston 48 yard line, the Wolverines capped their lone scoring drive of the night on a 24-yard passing play from Paxton to Trey Draper. Riverton opted for a two-point conversion attempt that was also successful and with 5:37 remaining in the half, the Wolverines avoided the shutout, but Evanston led 28-8.
Riverton appeared to attempt an on-sides kickoff resulting in Evanston taking over from their own 37-yard line.
Evanston used a combination of run and pass to cover the 63 yards for their fifth touchdown of the night, culminating with a 1-yard plunge by Cornia to give Evanston a 35-8 lead, followed by another successful PAT by Escalante with 1:35 remaining in the half.
Following a twenty-minute delay for an injured player early in the second half, the Wolverines looked to sustain a drive, but it was thwarted by a Rodriguez interception at the 10:43 mark of the third quarter, giving the Red Devils the ball on their own 43-yard line. Cornia carried to the Riverton 31 and then Lloyd again found Smith on a completion to the Wolverines’ 19-yard line. Lloyd went right back to Smith for a passing gain to the six-yard line. A pair of short gains by Cornia was followed by a two-yard touchdown run by Rodriguez. After a penalty, Evanston missed its first PAT attempt of the season, but still led comfortably, 41-8.
Rodriguez would also score Evanston’s final touchdown after both teams forced punting situations on alternating possessions.
Evanston began its final scoring drive from its own 46-yard line, following a 25-yard punt return to the Riverton 44, which was nullified by a penalty.
Evanston again counted on the legs of Cornia, Escalante and Rodriguez to run through holes created by the offensive line of Rylie Griggs, Bridger Barker, Ethan Moir, Brendan Thompson, Jesus Quintero and Sean Knighton.
On a first-and-goal from the nine-yard line, Rodriguez found the end zone for his second score of the night with 8:00 remaining in regulation. The PAT was good and Evanston had a commanding 48-8 advantage.
From that point, both teams substituted in their line-ups, allowing underclassmen to complete the ball game.
Red Devil head coach Pat Fackrell told the Herald he was pleased with the overall effort from his team, while also noting there is always room for improvement and that the competition will get stiffer for his Red Devil team.
“I thought we played really well up front and our offensive line created holes for Tyus, Pablo and Angel to run through,” Fackrell said.
Of Cornia’s unofficial 273-yard rushing performance, Fackrell said, “He works very hard and Tyus is just a naturally-gifted athlete. Not only does he have great breakaway speed, but he runs through tackles. He’ll run over the first guy and that wears out linebackers in a hurry.”
As far as the passing game, Fackrell says he likes what he sees in quarterback Lloyd’s leadership, and the speed of receivers Periman, Smith and Rodriguez, with their improving route-running ability.
The coach went on to praise his team’s performance on the defensive side of the ball.
“Rylie and Pablo are just big, strong, physical inside linebackers and they set the tone. I thought Bridger Barker had an amazing game. Cris and Kody at the corners are gaining confidence with their game experience and so is Angel at safety.”
Fackrell also shared his belief that Evanston will face its toughest test so far on the season when the Red Devils return to Fremont County for a showdown with the Lander Valley Tigers on Friday night, Sept. 14.
Lander has a new coach in John Scott, whom Fackrell has a great deal of respect for and whom he considers one of his mentors. Fackrell coached under Scott at Black Hills State for six years and became the defensive coordinator during a time when Black Hills State won two conference championships.
“Coach Scott is just a great football mind and he has a knack for coming in and turning programs around,” Fackrell said.
“I think he likes that challenge and he’s had success everywhere he’s coached. This will be a huge test for our football team.”