SPRINGFIELD, Mo–The Evangel Valor football team will kick off the 2023 campaign Saturday night in Nixa.

And it’ll be a whole new experience for the Valor who will be playing in a new conference, the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference.

Coach Chuck Hepola is back for his eighth season at the Evangel helm.

Evangel received votes in this week’s NAIA national poll sitting at number 27.

In addition to new opponents, the Valor will welcome back 18 starters from last year’s team that finished 7-3.

That experience will help considering the Valor kicks off the season against Kansas Wesleyan which is ranked 20th in the country.

“We kind of thought we were kind of young a little bit. Really overall we have a bunch of young guys. But when you start to look at the two deep man. And really the amount of returners that we have that’s really in the two deep offensively, defensively and on special teams. That’s quite a few guys. That’s good to know because the team that we are playing, they’re a really good team but have a lot of turnover. So that makes it a little bit more comfortable going out on a Saturday and know you have a bunch of veteran guys out there,” said Hepola.