LAUREL, Miss. (WDAM) - Off to an 0-4 start, it was quite clear Laurel High School was missing something – or perhaps, someone.
Xavier Evans' second game in uniform was exactly what the doctor ordered for the Golden Tornadoes. Sidelined for Laurel’s first three games with a leg injury, Evans looked every bit healthy in Thursday’s 57-38 win over Natchez.
“It made me real happy,” Evans said. “It felt good to contribute to the win with my team. It felt good to be back out there with my guys.”
“It’s been tremendous having him back and having him back healthy,” said Laurel first-year head coach Ryan Earnest. “He’s kinda the straw that stirs our drink. He’s kinda the spark that gets us going on offense and defense.”
Evans was more like a cannonball on Thursday, exploding for 404 yards rushing on 29 carries and scoring all five of his touchdowns in the second half as Laurel mounted a come-from-behind win.
“He turned it on for us,” Earnest said. “Those are the kinds of performances that we need from him down the stretch. We’re right in the thick of region play and we need our playmakers to rise to the occasion. We challenged them at halftime and he responded to the challenge and then some. What he’s done the last two weeks, specifically last Thursday, is he’s shown the entire state the kind of performances that he’s capable of.”
“[Earnest] not only challenged me, he challenged the rest of the team,” Evans said. “I felt like we responded well. Offensive line came out played well, receivers blocked well on the perimeter, just an overall team effort.”
Before Evans heads off to Arkansas State to play college football, he hopes to carry Laurel to another deep playoff run.
It starts with capturing region 3-5A – and a win over West Jones on Friday could go a long way toward that goal.
“The winner of this game is going to seize control of the division and kinda have the inside track to the region championship,” Earnest said. “West Jones is a great football team, great football program. Very well-coached by a guy that I have a ton of respect for in coach [Scott] Pierson. It’s going to be a formidable task this Friday. We’re going to have to play very well, minimize the mistakes.”