By Stan Awtrey
Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy won its third straight state championship on Friday morning, the fifth in the school’s history, in near-record fashion.
The Chargers (14-0) defeated Athens Academy 41-3 in the Class A Private championship game, the first high school title determined at the Mercedes-Benz stadium.
The victory extended ELCA’s winning streak to 36 straight and completed an unprecedented postseason run. ELCA won its four playoff games by a cumulative score of 201-3. The Chargers allowed only 72 points all season and only 22 against Class A opposition. They also defeated Class AAA Hart County, Class AAAAAA Jonesboro and Class AAAAA Eagle’s Landing during the regular season.
“Great leadership from our seniors,” ELCA coach Jonathan Gess said. “I say that because as freshmen they got beat 49-7 in the state championship game. A lot of people can feel sorry for themselves and whine and complain. Those boys went to work and the result of that has been 36 straight wins and three state championships.”
ELCA dominated both sides of the ball. They had 420 yards of total offense, 281 of that coming on the ground, and limited Athens Academy (13-1) to 22 total yards and no first downs. Gess credited defensive coordinator Brett Collier for the game plan and the seniors for carrying it out.
“Our defense has done a phenomenal job,” Gess said. “We just have a great group of leaders that are seniors on defense. I’m real excited for them.”
ELCA defensive lineman Harrison Taylor said. “It’s big-time. This is what we pride ourselves on, hard work and shutting people out. Nobody works the way we do. We’re family. We all play for each other. Nobody’s selfish. If one guy messes up, the next man picks him back up … 36-0, three-time state champs. I love my brothers.”
Taylor had 7.5 tackles, three for loss, and two sacks. Johnathan Youngblood had 7.5 tackles, one for loss. Georgia Shockley had 4.5 tackles. Khaleb Hood had 3.5 tackles and one interception.
Josh Mays rushed 23 times for 101 yards and quarterback Brayden Rush completed 8 of 13 passes for 91 yards and one touchdown for ELCA.
Athens Academy scored its only points late in the game. Tae Clay intercepted Rush and took over at the 8. The Spartans weren’t able to move the ball and settled for a 25-yard Drew Byus field goal with 1:39 remaining. The field goal prevented ELCA from becoming the second team in history to go through the playoffs without allowing a point.
ELCA removed any suspense early, dominating the first half and taking a 27-0 lead into intermission. The Chargers ran for four scores, a 1-yarder from Rush, a 39-yarder from Nate McCollum, a 9-yarder from Keaton Mitchell and a 70-yard gut-buster by Justin Menard with 4:17 left.
“We like the fast tempo,” Menard said. “We shut them down real quick.”
ELCA scored on two touchdown passes in the third quarter, a 19-yarder from Rush to Sean Queen and 48-yarder from McCollum to Queen.