Season recap: Ian Evans
Pete Lancetta remembers the look on Ian Evans' face well.
The longtime Hammonton (N.J.) High football coach had guided his team to the South Jersey Group 3 championship game against Timber Creek, and Evans -- a Maryland commitment and the Blue Devils’ star defensive end -- appeared as if he would only accept one result for his squad.
“When they had the ball and cut it close, he sort of just took over with his pass rushing,” Lancetta said. “I think he showed why he’s a big-time player at that moment. And we needed him. They were closing the gap and then he had a big sack. I just happened to focus on him at that moment in time. It looked like he didn’t want to lose. He wanted that Group 3 title. He looked like he was on a mission.”
Evans accomplished that mission, leading Hammonton to a 23-17 win for the state championship. He finished his senior season with 52 tackles, 17 sacks, seven quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles, while also catching 17 passes for 360 yards and three touchdowns from the tight end position. For Evans’ efforts, the Philadelphia Inquirer named him its Defensive Player of the Year.
“I just finished up my 21st year as head coach at Hammonton, and he is without question the biggest big-time player we’ve had, however you want to phrase it,” Lancetta said. “He’s 6-3, 235 pounds and runs like a running back. So that’s why he had all the interest he did. He just made his decision to go to Maryland in the spring of his junior year. He had a lot of other offers and interest. He went there on his own and visited. [Maryland running backs coach John] Donovan did a great job recruiting him and that’s why he verbally committed so early.”
Evans, who also punted for the Blue Devils, especially impressed Lancetta with his blocking throughout the season. A number of programs even recruited him primarily as a tight end. There’s no question, however, that the Maryland staff has big plans for Evans on the defensive side of the ball.
“I think they believe that he can stand up,” Lancetta said, “which is what he did for us the majority of the time at Hammonton. He played outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme and he can certainly rush the passer and drop off. He’s certainly athletic enough to do that. I think the coaches think he can do it. He’s got a big frame and can put more weight on. But they can also put him down on the edge rushing from the defensive end spot.”
It took awhile for Evans to become completely enamored with football. He briefly quit the team before his junior season, according to the Inquirer. After his very brief hiatus, he returned to the Blue Devils with a greater passion for the game. The results speak for themselves.
“We always believed he had the physical ability,” Lancetta said. “But he just needed to straighten a couple things out. He has always been a great kid and very well behaved. I just don’t think he realized how good he could be. … He’s just somebody who needed to get confidence in himself. He needed to be a little more cocky, if that makes sense. I think that’s what he needed -- to just believe that he was as good as we thought he could be. Once he started to believe, that was it.”