By S. Thomas Coleman
For the AJC
Most teams would be in full panic mode if they were going into their region championship game against their main rival, which was riding a five-game winning streak, without their starting quarterback.
But Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy is not most teams. In fact, the Chargers served notice to the rest of the playoff-bound Class A private schools teams, that beating them will be a tall order, if not flat out impossible.
ELCA (9-1, 6-0) dominated Landmark Christian (7-3, 5-1) from start to finish en route to a 43-0 drubbing, Friday night at Commitment Field in McDonough, with starting quarterback Dalton Etheridge standing on the sideline nursing a high ankle sprain.
But his services wouldn’t be needed. The Chargers offensive line – seniors Tyler Petty and Jake Martin, juniors Matthew Moore and Beau Beasley, and sophomore Ryan Meneely – steamrolled the War Eagles’ front seven all night, as ELCA stayed in a shot-gun, spread offense that featured running backs Keyonte Green and Marquis Griffin taking all the snaps.
Green ran 20 times for 194 yards, including touchdowns of 54 and 56 yards, which came on his first two rushes of the night. Griffin ran for 100 yards on 14 carries, including touchdowns of 20 and 3 yards. In total, ELCA ran for 309 yards, and Griffin and Green combined to complete 2-of-4 passes for 37 yards and a touchdown – a 16-yard shot put from Green to tight end Isaac Rochelle, to make the score 30-0 midway through the second quarter.
As dominant as ELCA was on offense, the Chargers eclipsed that effort on defense. Led by Rochelle, Green, and linebacker Josh Shockley, who had seven tackles in the first quarter, ELCA yielded just 78 yards of offense – including 1-yard rushing – and 1 first down, which came midway through the third quarter during Landmark’s best drive of the night. But on fourth-and-two at the ELCA 28-yard line, War Eagle quarterback Stockton McGuire fumbled the snap and ELCA took over on downs.
The Chargers then proceeded to drive 72 yards in 13 plays, before Griffin jogged in from 3-yards out to cap the scoring for the evening and give ELCA its third consecutive Region 5 title.
The win was especially sweet as the War Eagles upset ELCA in the state semifinals last season, 14-7, on the same field.
“We’ve had to live with that for a year,” ELCA head coach Jonathan Gess told his team afterward. “To get it done like that, really feels good.”
Landmark 0 0 0 0 0
ELCA 13 17 6 7 43
E — Keyonte Green 54 run (kick failed)
E – Green 56 run (Isaac Barber kick)
E – Lane Timspson 15 run (Barber kick)
E – Isaac Rochelle 16 pass from Green (Barber kick)
E – Barber 22 fg
E – Marquis Griffin 20 run (kick blocked)
E – Griffin 3 run (Barber kick)