Crusaders fighting through offseason lull


SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Like football teams across the country, the Evangel Crusaders are in stand-by mode. Waiting for word when they can get together for workouts and prep for the fall.

Like many in Greene County, Evangel Football coach Chuck Hepola endured last month’s stay at home order.

“We handled it from a football perspective the best we can,” Hepola said. “From a personal perspective my lawn has never looked this good. Been able to do some things at home that I never had a chance to.”

Coach Hepola has sculpted his landscape the same way he built his Crusader football team, with hard work and patience. The fifth year coach is doing his best to not let this COVID-19 shutdown hamper any progress.

“I’m proud of how our coaches have handled things. How our team has handled things,” Hepola said.

The shutdown came days before Evangel was to kick off spring ball. Instead, Hepola used video technology to have a virtual spring camp.

“So when we did our zoom meetings we did installs,” Hepola said. “We installed just like if we were on the field. The only difference was we didn’t get on the field to perform it.”

Evangel also added nearly 30 recruits to a roster that’s been ranked in the NAIA top 25 the last three years.

“Not a lot of NAIA teams sign 30 players. Most sign like 50 some even 100,” Hepola said. “We’ve gotten to the point in our program that we’re retaining guys and they like the product.”

2019 did not end the way Hepola or the Crusaders wanted, back-to-back losses to mar an 8-3 season. Those defeats and the COVID quarantine have the players extra motivated when football returns this fall.

“Literally every guy can’t wait to see their teammates. Can’t wait to get back on the field. They’re chomping at the bit,” Hepola said. “What it will do in the end is everybody will have a certain hunger. If nothing else this makes you appreciate what you had. Everyone wants to play the great sport of football.”

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