Coach Evans returns at halftime as Canon-McMillan defeats Hempfield

Friday, September 20, 2019 | 11:06 PM

Hempfield coach Rich Bowen had an uneasy feeling during pregame warmups.

He was antsy and seemed distracted.

“We’re banged up,” Bowen said. “We’ll see what happens. They may be 0-4, but they’re a tough football team.”

Canon-McMillan coach Mike Evans also was antsy and distracted but for different reason. He frantically drove to the game, which already had started, with the news he’d been cleared to return from a suspension just hours before kickoff.

Evans, who sat out two games, was reinstated and made it Friday night in time to coach the second half. His team responded with a 21-12 Class 6A conference victory at Spartan Stadium.

The incident that generated Evans’ suspension reportedly involved him pushing over a beverage cooler in the locker room during halftime of a game.

Canon-McMillan (1-4, 1-3) won its first game of the season and beat Hempfield for the second year in a row as Jonathan Quinque passed for 191 yards and three touchdowns, two to Blake Joseph, and tailback Ryan Angott rushed for 140 yards.

Hempfield, which showed some life late despite injuries to a number of key players — quarterback Blake Remaley and defensive back Evan Graham played with injuries — fell to 2-3, 1-3.

“You watch film and, yes, they’re an 0-4 team,” Bowen said. “But they are not a bad football team. Give their kids credit. They played inspired football.”

Running back Mario Perkins and defensive back Demetrius Murphy did not play for Hempfield because of injuries.

Running back Nathan Roby did a little of everything once again, rushing for 173 yards for the Spartans, who got interceptions from Nicholas Ross and Joey Benz and recovered a fumble but could not rally.

Back to Evans’ whirlwind day: He said a meeting was scheduled with school board members at 5 p.m. Friday.

“I was so happy when they told me I could leave the meeting and come to the game,” Evans said. “I may have been going 85 miles an hour. I left at like 7:50 and got here at 8:20.”

He didn’t even have time to stop for a Big Mac.

Evans said he “owes a ton” to the school board and praised their efforts to get him back on the sidelines.

“We didn’t have a relationship before this,” he said. “And now we do.”

He did not tell any of his coaches or players he would be showing up for the second half.

The Big Macs led at the half 14-6. The team saw Evans walk onto the field as they were stretching after halftime.

“I started to call a couple plays, but my assistants put this gameplan together,” Evans said. “I haven’t been in the groove, and these guys have been doing such a great job. I am just really happy for them … and that I get to coach the kids again because for a time I wasn’t sure that I was going to be able to.”

Roby gave Hempfield a 6-0 lead with a 49-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.

Canon-McMillan was driving late in the first when Hempfield was flagged for pass interference.

That set up Quinque’s 19-yard strike to Joseph, and the Big Macs took a 7-6 lead.

Midway through the second quarter, Hempfield crossed midfield but backup running back Lucas Guy fumbled and the Big Macs recovered.

Immediately, Canon-McMillan converted the turnover into points. Quinque zipped a play-action pass over the top to Joseph, and the 51-yard play put the Big Macs ahead 14-6.

Early in the fourth, Quinque dumped a pass off to David Mowod, who ran outside and tightroped the sideline for a 59-yard score to make it 21-6.

After fruitless drives following the turnovers, Hempfield found the end zone again as a limping Remaley threw a 7-yard strike to Roman Pellis to trim the margin to 21-12.

“We had some kids tough it, out and I am proud of them for that,” Bowen said. “We’ll get healthy, and we’ll keep battling. We dug ourselves into a hole tonight.”

Hempfield has not had a winning season since 2013.

Canon-McMillan suddenly is back in the playoff race.

“The spotlight has been on me the past couple weeks, but it needs to be on the kids,” Evans said. “Our defense has been good all year, and our offense showed what it can do.”

Joseph caught eight passes for 108 yards for the Big Macs.

Check out an archived broadcast of this game on the TribLive High School Sports Network.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at or via Twitter .

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