Class A Private School Title Game (2:30 p.m.)
Prince Avenue Christian (11-2) vs. Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy (12-1)
Overview: ELCA, the now three-time Region 5A champion, has been the odds on favorite to win the Class A state title from the start. The Chargers feature a ton of college football prospects, including lineman Isaac Rochelle (committed to Notre Dame) and runningback/linebacker Keyante Green (committed to Purdue). PAC is in the finals in just its eighth season of varsity football.
ELCA season: The lone loss for the Chargers was to AAA Washington County (24-19) in the season opener, a game they led at halftime. ELCA was favored to win the state title last season, but was upset in the semifinals by region rival Landmark Christian, 14-7. The current group of seniors at ELCA is 45-7 in four seasons.
PAC season: The Wolverines have advanced to the title game in spite of losing four key players — including the son of head coach Mark Farriba — prior to the start of the season due to an off campus incident. The Wolverines dealt community rival and Region 8 champion Athens Academy (11-1) its only loss of this season, 24-7, in the second round of the playoffs, avenging a loss to the Spartans (14-7) earlier in the year.
ELCA strength: The Chargers are primarily a running team out of a spread formation, but are adept at passing as well. Green has rushed for over 1,000 yards in spite of missing several games due to injury the season, while junior quarterback Dalton Etheridge has thrown for over 1,000 yards as well. Defensively, ELCA is yeilding just 7 points per game.
PAC strength: The Wolverines run the wing-T often and effectively, averaging more than 300 yards per game on the ground with two 1,000-yard rushers — Carl Mattox and Bryce Huff. On defense, PAC was one of the few teams to hold Landmark Christian’s dynamic junior runningback, Jeremiah Kirkland, to less than 100 yards, limiting him to just 72 in the Wolverines’ 32-22 win in last week’s semifinals.
ELCA’s top players: Green is the Region 5 Player of the Year, has rushed for 1,203 yards and 17 touchdowns, and has 58 tackles on defense. Etheridge has thrown for nearly 1,300 yards and 11 touchdowns, while rushing for 724 yards and 18 touchdowns. Green, Rochelle and junior linebacker Josh Shockley lead a dominant front seven unit.
PAC’s top players: Mattox, Huff and fullback Connor Sibley make up the Wolverines productive backfield, with Mattox as one of the state’s most explosive players. Sam Kinnon, Christian Payne and Tyler Parish lead a stout defensive unit that doesn’t yeild many rushing yards.
On ELCA: “They are really good on both lines of scrimmage. All Green needs is a crack. If you get out of one of your run fits, he can hurt you as much as any back I’ve seen. You can try to get them in second and third-and-long, but then their quarterback is very accurate, too. It’s really hard to find a weakness with them. Their coaches come up with answers and their kids are talented enough to execute what they want to do.” — Our Lady of Mercy head coach Mike Earwood, whose team lost to ELCA 49-0 on October 19 and 42-14 in the first round of the state playoffs.
On PAC: “You don’t see any weak spots. They are solid all the way around. Their front seven plays with great effort and passion, and they are really tough to run on. [Parish] plays harder than any kid I’ve ever coached against. They run the wing-T and they run it well.” — Landmark head coach Wayne Brantley, whose team lost to PAC 32-22 in last week’s semifinals.
AJC Pick: ELCA 24, PAC 14