By Anvil Welch
Globe Sports Writer
There were parts of Kenny Evans’ visit to Fred G. Hughes Stadium on Saturday night that he truly appreciated.
That was before the RiverHawks tackled Missouri Southern, of course.
Evans, who’s in his fifth year as head football coach at Northeastern State University of Tahlequah, Okla., was an assistant for the Lions (1989-97) under the late Jon Lantz.
Evans’ 14-year-old son, Elliott, a 6-foot-3 freshman in high school — he’s a center in football — at Denton, Texas, was born in St. John’s Regional Medical Center in Joplin. Elliott also attended Saturday’s contest.
“It was great to see a lot of people,” Evans said Monday. “I was able to visit with Coach (Jim) Frazier (then the men’s athletic director). It was good to see the place (Hughes Stadium).”
But Saturday’s trip to Joplin didn’t start in stellar fashion.
“A bus broke down. Our defense arrived 1 1/2 hours late,” Evans said. “Maybe we’d been better off if we hadn’t played that first half.”
The Lions led 21-7 at the half and prevailed 27-21.
“The Missouri Southern coaching staff did a great job getting their guys ready to play,” Evans said. “We weren’t mentally ready. They (the Lions) were better prepared at the start of the game.
“We didn’t do a good job in the first half,” Evans said. “They had some big plays on offense and I remember a couple — the 70-yard run by Kellen (quarterback Kellen Cox) that set up their second touchdown and a 13-yard completion on third-and-13 to Landon (Zerkel) from Kyle Webster that helped them score their third touchdown.
“I believe we had the ball for only three series in the first half,” Evans said. “That’s a credit to them, of course, for controlling the ball.
“We got back in the game but couldn’t capitalize at the end,” Evans said. “They had the big interception (by linebacker Aaron Hall) where the ball bounced off our receiver.”
Evans said the RiverHawks received a strong game at quarterback from 6-foot-3, 210-pound sophomore Johnny Deaton. He completed 23 of 38 passes for 287 yards.
“Our quarterback continues to make strides,” Evans said. “He just needs the experience. He was backup to Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden in 2010.”
The RiverHawks (0-2) continue their inaugural season in the MIAA on Saturday with a 6 p.m. test against ninth-ranked Washburn in Topeka.