By S. Thomas Coleman
For the AJC
What a difference two seasons make.
In the 2010, Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy went to Clinch County and gave the Panthers all they could handle before losing 34-27 in the state quarterfinals. Clinch went on to finish 15-0 and win the school’s fifth state championship.
Friday night in McDonough, ELCA (2-1), No. 3 in Class A, exacted its revenge in dominating fashion. The Chargers manhandled Clinch from the very first snap and cruised to a 47-20 victory in a game where the final score didn’t come close to illustrating the difference between the two teams.
And the score could have been even worse as three of the Chargers’ top players – running back/linebacker Keyonte Green (Purdue committ), lineman Isaac Rochelle (Notre Dame committ) and safety DJ Curl (All-Region) – sat out with injuries.
Things started dreadfully for Clinch, and then quickly got worse. Panthers quarterback Kenyun Morehead fumbled on the first play from scrimmage, and ELCA recovered at the Clinch 25-yard line. Four plays later, Chargers quarterback Dalton Etheridge scored on a running play for a 7-0 lead.
On its second offensive possession, Clinch ran twice as many plays as it did on its first. But this time, on the second play from scrimmage, Morehead’s first pass of the night was tipped by a Chargers linebacker and intercepted by cornerback Jevious Terry, who returned it to the Panthers 1-yard line. On the next play, sophomore Cameron Steward scored and the rout was on, barely three minutes into the contest.
ELCA eventually built a 40-0 lead at the half, and played their JV unit in the second half, which was played with a running clock.
“Clinch has some talent but they’re a little down this year,” said ELCA head coach Jonathan Gess. “We have so much respect for their program and we have a great relationship with them. One year, we’re going to be down just like them. It happens.”
But this isn’t that year, as ELCA seems destined for a title, especially now that the Class A field has been somewhat diluted by the fact that public and private schools will play for separate championships. But Gess said he won’t have any trouble keeping his team humble and focused.
“All we have to do is look back to the quarterfinals last year, when we were favored to win then, too,” Gess said of the third-round loss to rival Landmark Christian Academy, which went on to play in the finals. “This team was embarassed. They were humbled. Now they know that you can’t take anyone lightly and you have to come to play every week.”
Clinch County 0 0 14 6 20
ELCA 28 12 0 7 47
ELCA – Dalton Etheridge 4 run (Isaac Barber kick)
ELCA – Cameron Stewart 1 run (Barber kick)
ELCA – Andreus Holley 3 run (Barber kick)
ELCA – Davis Carrandi 42 pass from Etheridge (Barber kick)
ELCA – Josh Shockley 10 fumble return (Barber kick)
ELCA – Barber 25 fg
ELCA – Safety; Punt snapped into the end zone
CC – James Core 1 run (Joost Smits kick)
CC – Core 15 blocked punt return (Smits kick)
ELCA – Holley 11 run (Barber kick)
CC – Billy Kelsaw 18 pass from Core (kick failed)