By S. Thomas Coleman
For the AJC
It’s “Judgment Week” in Class A, with a dozen games that will either decide a region champion or have minor to major Power Ranking and post season ramifications.
One of those games is the annual Landmark Christian-Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy donnybrook. We catch up with the man whose team has the biggest target on its back, ELCA head coach Jonathan Gess.
But first, a couple of house cleaning items:
1. There are a couple of websites that have been publishing power rankings for Class A schools that differ wildly from those on the Georgia High School Association’s website. So to make things crystal clear, Steve Figueroa, director of media relations for the GHSA said this:
“The State Executive Committee voted to use a particular formula for this task, and the result of that formula is the listing that appears on the GHSA website under the heading ‘Power Rating Points.’ Nothing else matters. … The only [ranking] that will be used is the one on our website. Period. Because that is what was adopted by our State Executive Committee.”
Once again, here is the link: http://www.ghsa.net/2012-ghsa-power-rankings-class-a-football
2. From the GHSA website, here is the official breakdown of what will happen following the conclusion of this weekend’s games in Class A:
Listed below is the procedure and time frame for the determination of the Class A football playoff brackets (public and private) using the MaxPreps Power Ratings.
Nov. 10th – Region winners in all classifications must be determined and results entered into MaxPreps web site.
Nov. 12th – Region playoff qualifiers in all classifications must be submitted to GHSA office by 9:00 a.m.
Nov. 13th – MaxPreps’ final power ratings will be posted on the GHSA web site.
Nov. 14th -
(1) Any Class A school that believes its power rating points are incorrect may file an appeal in writing to the GHSA between 8:00 am – 12 noon. The appeal letter must be accompanied by a complete list of results and points earned for each game.
(2) The GHSA Appeals Committee will meet at 1:00 pm to verify the results (including the appeals), and to break ties.
(3) The results of the appeals and the resulting playoff brackets will be posted later that day on the GHSA web site.
(1) Teams winning a Region championship will be placed in the brackets (public school or private school) first based on their power rating numbers.
(2) Then the rest of the brackets will be completed based on the power rating numbers
Nov. 23rd – First round games of Class A Football playoffs will begin. There will be four (4) rounds of playoffs in Class A this year, five (5) rounds in the other classifications, all leading up to the Championship games on Dec. 14-15 in the Georgia Dome.
And now, on to the previews.
Landmark (7-2, 5-0 in Region 5; No. 10 in the Private School Power Ranking) at No. 1 ELCA (8-1, 5-0; No. 2 in the Private School Power Ranking). Since ELCA and Landmark began competing against each other in Region 5 in 2004, the game has decided the region champion six times. The schools have split those games 3-3.
In the beginning of the series, which now sits at 10 games, Landmark won the first four but ELCA turned the tide in 2008 and ran off four wins in a row over the War Eagles, including last season’s 35-14 win during the regular season. But Landmark came back to upset the Chargers, 14-7, in the state semi finals, when ELCA (12-1 at the time) was heavily favored to take on eventual-state champion Savannah Christian for the title.
ELCA head coach Jonathan Gess shared a few of his thoughts on the eve of Landmark-ELCA IX.
On “Landmark Week” being different. “From a coaching standpoint, it is different. The kids are excited. The game is always as big as a quarter-final or semi-final playoff game. It’s just a big rivalry. You don’t want to lose to Landmark in any sport.”
On last year’s upset win by Landmark in the playoffs: “[The ELCA players] remember. The past couple of weeks we’ve had a little trouble getting them going but this week we haven’t had to do anything at all.”
On facing Landmark: “Landmark always has a bunch of hard-nosed, hard-working kids that never give up. The running back they have [Jeremiah Kirkland] might not be better than the Pace kid [Denzel Franklin], and their receiver [Josh Nobles] might not be better than Mercy’s [Rashard Fant]. But they have no fear of us. A lot of teams don’t think they can beat us. Landmark doesn’t feel that way at all.
“[Landmark head coach Wayne] Brantley is going to run the football right at you and he doesn’t mind punting. He’ll keep pounding you and they’ll keep working until you make a mistake. We have to get them in second-and-long situations, make them uncomfortable.
They play the same way on defense – tough, hard-nosed and fundamentally sound. We have to be prepared to be patient and wear them down ourselves. Offensively, we have to dominate the line of scrimmage, and we have to win the turnover battle.”
On the lack of adversity the Chargers have faced this season: “As a coach it does worry me, we haven’t been in a tight game after halftime since Washington County [Week 1]. I’ve told our kids that Friday, it might be 7-7 or 0-0 even at halftime. We have to expect a battle.”
On players other than his standouts who have stepped up this season: “David Carrandi (6-1, 175) is a junior receiver who has really played well for us. He has over 500 yards receiving. Defensively, David Reynolds is a sophomore we play at outside linebacker and strong safety. He’s made a lot of big plays for us. He’s got three pick-sixes this season.”
On being the No. 1 team in Class A: “Our philosophy is to win the day. Just try to get better today than you were the day before. We tell our kids to compete against yourself. Ask yourself if you gave everything you had today in order to get better.
“There’s pressure, but I’d rather be in this position because I know how much work it took to get here. It’s an honor.”
Brookstone (7-2, 5-1 in Region 4; No. 11 Private Power Ranking) at Greenville (5-4, 3-3; No. 16). Greenville needs the win to hold on to the final public school playoff spot. Brookstone still has a shot to win the region title.
Clinch County (3-6, 1-4 in Region 2; No. 14 Public Power Ranking) at Turner County (5-4, 2-3; No. 18 Public Power Ranking). The winner will most likely make the top 16 and advance to the playoffs. The loser will likely stay home.
No. 9 Irwin County (6-3, 4-1 in Region 2; No. 6 Pubic Power Ranking) at Charlton County (5-4, 3-2; No. 8 Public Power Ranking. The winner stays in contention for the region crown.
Jenkins County (5-4, 3-2 in Region 3-Division A; No. 23 Public Power Ranking) at Johnson County (7-2, 3-1 in Region 3-Division B; No. 13 Public Power Ranking). Only .12 of a point separates Johnson from dropping out of the field of 16, so the Trojans need to win.
Mt. Paran Christian (2-7, 2-3 in Region 6-Division B; No. 22 Private Power Ranking) at Mt. Zion-Carroll (6-3, 4-1 in Region 6-Division A; No. 15 Public Power Ranking). Mt. Zion must win to hold on to its spot in the field of 16. A win could possibly give the Eagles the region title as well.
Mt. Pisgah (6-3, 3-2 in Region 6-Division B; No. 15 Private Power Ranking) at Darlington (6-3, 4-1 in Region 6-Division A; No. 7 Private Power Ranking). Mt. Pisgah needs to win to hold on to its playoff spot. A win by Darlington keeps the Tigers in contention for the Region title.
No. 6 Savannah Christian (7-2, 5-0 in Region3-Division A; No. 4 Private Power Ranking) at No. 2 Emanuel County Institute (8-1, 4-0 in Region 3-Division B; No. 3 Public Power Ranking). The winner takes the region championship and momentum heading into the state playoffs in two weeks.
Strong Rock Christian (4-5, 1-4 in Region 5; No. 23 Private Power Ranking) at Our Lady of Mercy (5-4, 2-3; No. 17 Private Power Ranking). Mercy needs a win, and most likely a loss by either Mt. Pisgah or Whitefield Academy, in order to make the top 16 and advance to the playoffs. A win by Strong Rock would allow the Patriots to finish at .500 in only their third season in GHSA competition.
Telfair County (6-4, 3-2 in Region 2; No. 20 Public Power Ranking) at No. 7 Wilcox County (7-2, 4-1 in Region 2; No. 2 Public Power Ranking). Telfair needs a win to keep its slim playoff hopes alive. A win by Wilcox could give the Patriots the region championship.
Walker (9-0, 6-0 in Region 6-Division B; No. 5 Private Power Ranking) at Gordon Lee (5-4, 2-3 in Region 6-Division A; No. 17 in the Public Power Ranking). A win by Gordon Lee would most likely catapult the Trojans into a playoff spot. Walker is looking to finish undefeated and win the school’s first region title in football.
Whitefield Academy (6-3, 5-1 in Region 6-Division B; No. 16 Private Power Ranking) at Trion (7-2, 3-2 in Region 6-Division A; No. 12 Public Power Ranking). A win for Whitefield would solidify the Wolfpack’s hold on a playoff spot. A loss would most likely send them home.