Class A Private School Preview

By S. Thomas Coleman
For the AJC

Supporters and fans of Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy are ecstatic about the Chargers advancing to the Class A private school championship game.

In fact, one fan in particular is so excited that he arrived early for the game. Uriah Paul Gess, the first child of ELCA head coach Jonathan Gess and his wife Dee, came bursting into the world on Wednesday, almost a week ahead of schedule. There is no truth to the rumor that he has already joined ELCA’s plentiful watch list of college football prospects.

“I don’t know about that. Just as long as when he plays, he plays hard,” Gess said. “I guess he wanted to be here to see the game, too. “

In the minds of many, ELCA’s advancement to the championship game has been an afterthought, as they have dominated opponents by an average score of 45-8. But that has not been the attitude within the Charger program, where the mantra all season has been to take one game at a time. Gess said the team approached this week of practice the same way.

“When we won Friday, it was exciting because we could say that we finally made it, we knocked that wall down,” Gess said. “But then on Sunday, it was time to get at it again. Time to prepare for another tough opponent in a big game.”

That opponent, Prince Avenue Christian, grinded its way to the finals. The Wolverines were touted as favorites to win Region 8 and make a deep run into the post season, after last year’s 13-1 finish. But four of PAC’s best players – including the son of head coach Mark Farriba – left the school and the team prior to the start of fall practice because of an off campus incident.

But the team adjusted, persevered and kept winning, including a 28-12 triumph in Week 3 over last year’s state champs, Savannah Christian, which had dealt PAC its only loss last season, 27-0 in the semifinals.

“That was a big win for us,” Farriba said. “Then when we beat Darlington (42-21) and Athens Academy (24-7) in the first two rounds of the playoffs, our confidence really grew.”

The Wolverines will need that confidence against the Chargers’ talented roster, which features Division I players like Region 5 player of the year linebacker/running back Keyante Green (committed to Purdue), two-way lineman Isaac Rochelle (Notre Dame), and all-region performers safety/receiver DJ Curl, cornerback/receiver Jevius Terry and cornerback/receiver Marquis Griffin – all seniors.

“They are just a dangerous team all around,” Farriba said. “They have players all over the field and don’t rely on just one guy. They’re so explosive that if you stop one guy, another one can hurt you.

“We just have to do what we do,” Farriba said. “It’s no secret. We have to control the ball, play good defense and not give up big plays on special teams.”

Gess believes PAC’s lineup is just as formidable.

“They have a couple of guys we think are definitely D-1 players, and the rest of their team is made up of very good high school football players who play with amazing passion,” Gess said. “It’s incredible. It’s like they have 14 future Navy seals over there. And coach Farriba and [defensive coordinator Richard] Bell are two of the greatest coaches in the state who have been pretty darn successful.”

Though this is his first foray into the Georgia High School Association finals, Farriba led five teams to the finals in the Georgia Independent Schools Association, winning titles in 1985 and 2004. While each team is different, Farriba said his current club shares similar qualities to the other teams he took to the finals.

“The common thread is being accountable to everybody else around you on the team, knowing that you are a part of something that is bigger than you are,” Farriba said.

That same selfless attitude has propelled ELCA this season, according to Gess.

“This is a special group of juniors and seniors. They’ve been through it together, and that’s the key,” Gess said of the group of players that is 36-4 over the last three seasons. “I told them, win or lose, I love them. They key is to keep playing for each other the way they have.”

12 comments Add your comment


December 13th, 2012
3:07 pm

Things to consider before the “R” word accusations & innuendos began flying anew about the ELCA & PACS football programs: 1) All private schools recruit. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t have any students. The vast majority do not “recruit” (i.e. illegally) athletes, but this is what most people are referring to when they use the words “recruit” or “recruiting”. 2) Nowadays, if a particular program benefits from “recruiting”, plausible deniability by all the usual suspects is expected and is just common sense. No reasonable accuser believes a coach/teacher/administrator is directly involved with “recruiting” and those folks don’t want to know about the rumors. 3) So who is responsible in the vast majority of cases? Boosters/alumni are now the key players in the “recruiting” game. However, GHSA has strengthened the policy to include these agents/benefactors that are not directly affiliated with the institution as being able to impart guilt of their “recruiting” activity to the institution in question. I hope STC highlights this aspect in his next commentary to this blog Re what does and does not constitute “recruiting”. 4) Minors don’t get recruited, adults/guardians do. So don’t reflexively respond to the “R” word by attacking the accuser as a “kid hater”. Similarly (although it feels like it), “recruiting” accusations do not disparage the efforts of the bystanders involved. Again, “recruiting” involves specific adults, not the kid in question, their teammates, or the coaches (in all likelihood). Unfortunately, if it occurs and can be proven, collateral damage may eventually result (i.e. vacated wins, etc.).

So, for those of who that love to respond to the “recruiting” innuendo with claims of how your honorable coaches/teachers/administrators would never be involved in such “recruiting” activity, just remember that you are also vouching for the purity of every interested booster/alumnus (i.e. rotund realtors and the like) associated with your institution. Is that a wise stance to take, or should you just stick with what you know about you and your own child’s experience at your institution?

Congratulations to both teams and I hope all come out healthy at the end of the contest.

p.s. if a newbie shows up dissing your program (especially if they don’t even spell a mascot name correctly-e.g. woverine), don’t naively assume the poster actually has anything to do with that school. You’re just being trolled, don’t take the bait. ;)


December 13th, 2012
4:47 pm

Lets go get em ELCA. Clayco is behind you. Bring it to the Southside.


December 13th, 2012
11:05 pm

NourStuff you can’t let those people make you think that much about it. Man. Good luck to everyone on the field. Going to be a big day for the boys and the schools. We will be praying for everyone to come out health.


December 13th, 2012
11:43 pm

First, and most importantly, congratulations to Jonathan and Dee! Football is what Coach Gess DOES, family is what he IS. Second, Chargers, finish this thing like we know you can. Lastly, prayers for all members of both teams for no injuries and safe travels. This should be a great game.


December 13th, 2012
11:45 pm

….and I have to add…..

STC, nice job in bringing some human interest to this blog, didn’t know you had a tender side my friend. :)


December 14th, 2012
12:54 am

@nourstuff — Very good and, in my opinion, accurate summary and assessment of the “recruiting” situation. Thanks for taking the time.

S. Thomas Coleman

December 14th, 2012
3:36 am

@MCMBAA: Thanks for the love! Of course I have a tender side. I’m all heart!

Thanks for reading and posting! See everyone at the Dome!

S. Thomas Coleman

Innocent Bystander

December 14th, 2012
6:52 am

@ nourstuff…………..Why do you feel it necessary to even mention that topic on a day like today, where these boys and fans of both schools are thinking about so much more important things ???????? Is it consuming your life ????

Rob M

December 14th, 2012
7:23 am

Love me some David and Goliath. Get a BIG ASS rock PAC and hit ‘em square between the eyes!!! Go Wolverines and TP #55!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


December 14th, 2012
8:43 am



December 14th, 2012
10:09 am

It’s a great day to be a Wolverine! Let’s Go Prince! TCB! We are praying for safe travels for everyone headed to the Dome this weekend and we hope to see some great Georgia high school football!

Swamp Lizard

December 14th, 2012
10:13 am

I’m actually so excited that I’m lost for words & don’t know what to say right now. I do wish all these players the best, enjoy the moment, play hard and leave it all out there on the field. ECI, Dooley Co, Prince Ave, & ELCA have been blessed and have a lot to be thankful for.