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Tanner Evans, defense lead unbeaten Christiansburg past Byrd

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Tanner Evans would be fine if his move to quarterback were only temporary.

“Yeah, I prefer playing running back,” he said with a smile.

You’d never know it by watching him Friday night.

Pressed into action at an unfamiliar position with Cameron Cooper unavailable, Evans threw three touchdown passes and ran for another score to lead Christiansburg to a 41-0 victory over host William Byrd.

Evans, a junior, said he felt confident all week but got a little nervous immediately before the game. Making his first QB start on the varsity level, he completed 11 of 15 passes for 155 yards. He also finished as the team’s leading rusher with 76 yards on six carries.

“He can do everything on the field,” right tackle Ayden Conley said. “If you want him to block, he’ll go block. If you want him to catch the ball, he’ll catch it. If you want him to throw, he’ll throw. He can do everything.”

The lopsided score was identical to the one the Blue Demons (3-0) posted in their opener against Floyd County, and they defeated Abingdon 22-13 at home in between. They steam into their open date on a high before traveling to Radford on Sept. 23.

“We’ve got things we need to fix, but we’ve got good ballplayers,” Christiansburg coach Alex Wilkens said. “We’ve got guys that are experienced. William Byrd threw a lot of stuff at us — particularly with their defense — that we had to iron out and adjust to and execute against. They basically told us, ‘You’re going to have to beat us throwing the football,’ and we were able to do that today.”

Christiansburg’s first two touchdowns came on fourth-down plays. Evans hit a wide-open Thaxton Henley in the flat from 5 yards out for the opening score, then hooked up with Jay-Ron Thompson on a 17-yard fade pattern early in the second quarter.

“I feel like we’re a more run-heavy team,” said Thompson, who finished with three catches for 99 yards. “But if we’ve got to pass, we’ve got multiple receivers that can make plays, multiple quarterbacks who can throw the ball.”

And a defense that can dominate. Middle linebacker Curtis Altizer led the way along with edge rushers Dishon Garrison and Robert McCrea, as Christiansburg held the Terriers (1-2) to minus-2 rushing yards and only two first downs.

“We ran into a tough matchup tonight,” Byrd coach Brad Lutz said. “They’re a well-oiled machine that’s experienced with a ton of seniors and a lot of kids that have playoff experience. We’re a young team who’s fighting through some injuries and some difficulty.

“We’ve got to get healthy. We’ve got so many kids out banged up. We put some kids in some unfair positions tonight, but they stepped up and showed some character. That’ll be our focus.”

Christiansburg, meanwhile, looks to continue to build on a strong start after going 10-2 last year. The Blue Demons are striving to be a balanced offense, and they took a big step in that direction with Evans and their sticky-handed pass catchers on Friday.

“We’re not the type of team to just focus on one thing or the other,” Conley said. “They gave us 10 in the box today, so we’re going to pass it one-on-one. We have amazing receivers, and we trust them. But if somebody only has six in the box, we’re running all night.”

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