‘God. Family. Football.’

Michael Clark
NR | 6 episodes 3h | Documentary, Sports | 1 September 2023 (USA)

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.

The six-part limited docuseries chronicles the 2022 season of the Evangel Christian Academy located in Shreveport, Louisiana, and is an excellent 90-minute movie trapped inside a meandering, frequently redundant three-hour series.

‘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.
Twins Parker (L) and Peyton Fulghum in the documentary "God. Family. Football." (Amazon Studios)
Twins Parker (L) and Peyton Fulghum in the documentary "God. Family. Football." (Amazon Studios)
Classified as non-denominational, Evangel, as the title suggests, puts emphasis on faith, family (both immediate and extended), and athletics. During its relatively brief history, the school has won three state tennis championships, three softball titles, and six state baseball championships. Impressive numbers, to be sure, but it nowhere nears the accomplishments of the football program.

Football Rules

Between 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?

Head Coach Denny Duron in documentary "God. Family. Football." (Amazon Studios)
Head Coach Denny Duron in documentary "God. Family. Football." (Amazon Studios)

Enter Denny Duron

The 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.

Twins Parker (L) and Peyton Fulghum in documentary "God. Family. Football." (Amazon Studios)
Twins Parker (L) and Peyton Fulghum in documentary "God. Family. Football." (Amazon Studios)

The Twins

The 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.

If you want to watch essentially the same kind of movie that is far better and is presented in roughly half of the time, check out “All In: Miracle at St. Bernard’s” which I reviewed last year for the Epoch Times.
Theatrical poster for documentary "God. Family. Football." (Amazon Studios)
Theatrical poster for documentary "God. Family. Football." (Amazon Studios)
“God. Family. Football.” is now available on Amazon Freevee.
‘God. Family. Football.’ Documentary Director: Rob Gehring Running Time: 3 hours MPAA Rating: Not Rated Release Date: Sept. 1, 2023 Rating: 2 out of 5
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Originally from Washington, D.C., Michael Clark has provided film content to over 30 print and online media outlets. He co-founded the Atlanta Film Critics Circle in 2017 and is a weekly contributor to the Shannon Burke Show on FloridaManRadio.com. Since 1995, Mr. Clark has written over 4,000 movie reviews and film-related articles. He favors dark comedy, thrillers, and documentaries.
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