MCDONOUGH — Top-ranked Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy has dominated opponents this season on both sides of the ball. The Chargers enter Friday’s Class-A Private state championship game against Athens Academy outscoring opponents 52-5 on a per game basis.
Lost in the team’s dominance this season is often the performance of the offensive line. The group of Zack Jones, Gavan George, Evan Zember, Martin Yates, Cody Carder and Josue Arroyo, as well as fullback Micheal Bell, has set the tone all season for the unbeaten Chargers.
“We want to be tough and be physical,” said Jones. “I think the No. 1 thing as an offensive lineman is you have to be dirty. We’re not the nice guys or the pretty guys. Every day we hit each other, every single rep. We get after it. We have a saying ‘chop wood,’ so every play we hit and we hit. Teams have ended up buckling on us.”
It’s easy to see ELCA’s stats this season and shower the team’s skill position players with accolades, but none of it would be possible without a dominant offensive line. The Chargers average more than 365 yards rushing per game and have scored 69 rushing touchdowns. ELCA running backs average 9.7 yards per carry, which indicates that Josh Mays, Keaton Mitchell and the rest of the team’s ball carriers are often avoiding contact until they reach the second level of the defense.
The offensive line has also held up in the passing game. ELCA doesn’t throw it much, but when quarterback Brayden Rush has he’s been extremely efficient and explosive. The Chargers average 20 yards per reception and have 25 completions over 20 yards. Rush has had all day to throw and he’s taken advantage, tossing 20 touchdowns to just one interception.
Jones is the centerpiece of the line. Rush said that his senior tackle is often the calming voice in the huddle and makes sure players are where they are supposed to be pre-snap.
Jones and George were First Team All-Region selections, while Zember and Yates made it to the Second Team. All postseason accolades are well-deserved, but ELCA’s front is focused on success on the field, knowing that springing skill players to big plays means a job well done.
“Your offensive line is naturally your unselfish kids,” ELCA head coach Jonathan Gess said. “They don’t live for the limelight or the glory, they’ve probably never got it in their lifetime. They are out here because they love football and they love being a part of the team. It’s very important to me that I coach the offensive line. I spend time with those boys and I demand more out of the than anybody else because they are the anchor of our football team.”
Through 13 games this season, the offensive line has delivered. They will try to do it one more time in the state title game Friday night.
“I take a lot of pride, not just me but the rest of the offensive line,” Jones said. “If I do my job and somebody else doesn’t then I don’t look good. I take as much pride in me doing my job right as the other four guys. We’ve worked so hard to get where we’re at. It’s been an awesome ride.”
ELCA will play Athens Academy Friday at Mercedes Benz Stadium in the Class A-Private state championship game. Kickoff is set for 10 a.m.