SPRINGFIELD, Mo–The Evangel Valor will kick off the college football season in the Ozarks Thursday night at Nixa’s Eagle stadium.

It’s the last season for Evangel in the Heart of America Conference.

It’s also the last season that two brothers will play together for the Valor.

And they intend to make it special.

The 2022 Evangel football season has arrived and the brothers Anoa’i have mixed feelings.

“I’m excited yet sad at the same time. I didn’t realize how fast time flys. I feel like it was just yesterday that I got here to Evangel. It makes me feel like dang, I should cherished it more,” said Will Anoa’i Evangel defensive tackle.

The senior defensive lineman will cherish this campaign because it’ll be a family affair.

CJ Anoa’i/Evangel Defensive Tackle:”It’s truly a dream come true to play with my brother. Since we went to the same high school, he was a senior, I was a freshman. A young guy coming in. We never really got the chance to play together . I’m glad I get to live out our dreams together and play next to each other on the field,” said Evangel defensive tackle C.J. Anoa’i.

Will’s older and wiser, and was among the conference leaders with five sacks and a dozen tackles for loss.

He’s a team captain and has taken his younger brother under his wing.

Will:”We always talked about playing together some day. We never thought it’d be here. Honestly, you know as kids you dream but don’t know if it would actually happen or not. But now that it’s actually come true it’s awesome.”

The defense will be a strong piece to the Valor football machine in 2022.

And coach Chuck Hepola is thankful to have the brothers Anoa’i right in the middle of all the action.

“Local products, both graduated from Kickapoo High School…They actually play a similar position right there. So there’s some competition between the two of them. It’s a friendly sibling rivalry but you know how that is. Probably not so friendly at times. But both great young men. And I’m glad they’re a part of our program,” said Hepola.

Will and C.J. started playing football when they were kids in grade school.

C.J. has always looked to Will for guidance and that didn’t stop in college.

CJ:”He’s been my coach every day on and off the field. He’s taught me everything that I know. Playbook wise, technique wise. He’s also taught me how to become a better man.”

So let the season commence, as Evangel hopes to end its time in the Heart of America with a conference championship.

And let the Anoa’i brothers soak up every snap of the ball.

Will:”Of course my goal is to win a championship. And to win that with my little brother would be a dream come true.”