Debuting on the same day when most of the country’s high schools begin their 2023 seasons, “God. Family. Football.” contains everything followers of this sport could possibly want, and more, which is also somewhat problematic.
‘God. Family. Football.’Founded in 1980 by husband-and-wife Rodney and Frances Duron, Evangel started as a kindergarten through 8th grade school with a second campus high school added in 1989. The current enrollment of both schools is around 675.
Football RulesBetween 1993 and 2016, the Evangel Eagles won the Louisiana State High School Football Championship 14 times, including four in a row (1996–1999), three in a row (2004–2006), and a national championship in 1999. Since 1991, the school has also won 29 district titles. Those are otherworldly statistics and qualify Evangel as one of only 12 recognized high school football dynasties.
Like every dynasty in every sport in the history of sports, Evangel’s domination came to an end, in 2017. Some schools field teams that have never won any kind of championship and more than a few that have never had a winning season.
However, with successful sports programs such as Evangel's, long-term losing is highly atypical and won’t be tolerated for any extended stretch of time for several reasons, the least of which is risking an interruption of generous, continuous donations from wealthy alumni.
Perpetual losing also erodes fan support and it’s clear from some of the games shown in the documentary that the attendance is embarrassingly modest. So how does Evangel shake this funk and return to glory days?
Enter Denny DuronThe answer, it would appear, was to hire Denny Duron as head coach. An off-and-on assistant during the championship years, Mr. Duron’s only head coaching experience was from 1977 through 1982 at Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri (which is not connected or affiliated to the Shreveport high school with the same name).
It's never explained who exactly hired Mr. Duron, but it was likely that Mr. Duron himself had a say in the matter as he is also the current chancellor at the Evangel Academy. Mr. Duron is also an ordained minister and the son of the founders.
Avuncular, jolly, upbeat, spiritual, and bearing an uncanny resemblance to game show host Drew Carrey, Mr. Duron was as good a choice as any, as he checks all of the right boxes (football experience, religious, tight ties with the community, deep knowledge of the school’s history) and he knows a thing or two regarding fundraising.
Very little of the running time is devoted to Mr. Duron on the field with the bulk instead showing him with his staff, his wife, and contractors discussing a new, state-of-the-art, artificial turf field.
A little of this homespun stuff goes a long way, something not lost on the 12 producers and series director Rob Gehring, who make the wise choice of profiling a half dozen or so student athletes, all of whom are eminently watchable and memorable.
There’s a college-hopeful junior defensive player whose storyline is how he will cope when his senior cheerleader girlfriend heads off to college. Significant time is spent with an offensive lineman dealing with kidney stones and another refurbishing the rundown team golf cart with an oversized helmet top.
The TwinsThe principal secondary story centers on twin brothers (quarterback) Parker and (wide receiver) Peyton Fulghum, who are the undisputed team standouts and also happen to be the sons of former Evangel superstar quarterback Josh Booty (yes, that’s his real name). Mr. Booty shows up briefly in one episode and it’s easy to see why his sons harbor such contempt for him.
As entertaining as these side stories are, precious little of them have anything to do with football. There’s a distinct and lurid, reality TV, train wreck air accompanying too much of the production to make it recommendable to pure high school football fans.