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Eagle's Landing Christian Academy


Chargers Athletics

Eagle's Landing Christian Academy

Chargers Athletics

Eagle's Landing Christian Academy



5 months ago by Scott Queen

Three-Peat: ELCA caps off dominant season with rout of Athens Academy for third straight state title

ELCA caps off dominant season with rout of Athens Academy for third straight state title

ATLANTA — The Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy Chargers began the season with a target on their backs.

It didn’t matter, as ELCA capped off a dominating 2017 season with its third straight Class A-Private state championship, routing No. 2 Athens Academy by a score of 41-3 at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta Friday morning.

ELCA’s defense dominated in the game, holding Athens Academy to just 22 total yards and no first downs. Offensively, the Chargers accounted for 481 yards of total offense.

“It’s awesome, man. One thing we talk about is getting better every single week and that’s what they’ve done,” head coach Jonathan Gess said after the game. “I think that was the exclamation mark on a group of guys that were extremely talented and got better every single day of the year. Really, the offense gave up that last field goal. We were just trying to not get our running backs destroyed and our defense made them go backwards.”

It was ELCA’s 36th straight victory. The Chargers outscored their opponents 728-72 this season, including 205-3 in the state playoffs. ELCA became just the fifth program since 1990 to win three straight state championships with the win.

“We sat and talked about it last night a little bit that our football team had a chance to do something. We called it epic, something that hasn’t been done in the state of Georgia very often or in sports very often,” Gess said. “It’s kind of overwhelming when you look back on it. I could coach the rest of my life and not have a three-year run like that again — definitely not have a season of dominance the way that we had it.”

The Chargers’ defense began its dominant day with a three-and-out. ELCA’s first drive was marred by penalties, which eventually resulted in a early punt.

Harrison Taylor stopped Athens Academy’s next drive with a sack on third down, and the ensuing punt was returned to the 50-yard line. ELCA proceeded to embark on a 10-play drive that resulted in a 1-yard touchdown run by Brayden Rush on a quarterback keeper on fourth down. Josh Mays rushed for 37 yards on the drive, which gave the Chargers an early 7-0 lead.

ELCA’s defense gave the ball right back to the offense, and the Chargers scored in just over a minute. Nate McCollum kept the ball and ran 39 yards down the far sideline for the second touchdown of the game. A penalty and a mishap on the snap resulted in a failed extra point, giving the Chargers a 13-0 lead.

The Chargers took over at the Athens Academy 39-yard line on their next drive early in the second quarter but were stopped on fourth down when Mays was tackled short on a fourth down play. Athens Academy couldn’t capitalize, going three-and-out once again.

ELCA’s lead grew to 20-0 after a nine-play, 48-yard drive. Rush hit Justin Menard for a 17-yard completion and the latter converted on a fourth down run to extend the drive. Later in the drive, Keaton Mitchell scored on a 9-yard run.

The Chargers blew the game open after another Athens Academy three-and-out. Menard took a jet sweep, broke one tackle and sprinted 70 yards for a back-breaking touchdown run. ELCA took that 27-0 lead into halftime.

ELCA’s defense held Athens Academy to just four total yards and no first downs in the first half. The Chargers rushed for 241 yards.

“It’s extremely hard to get kids to buy in, but we’ve been together for a long time,” Gess said. “I’ve been with this group and so I’ve been coaching them and working them ever since they were in the ninth grade. They buy into the process, our philosophy our system. Our parents buy into it, our school buys into it, so everybody believes in what we do.”

The Chargers didn’t let up to start the second half. They received the kickoff and marched 80 yards on 11 plays. The drive ended with Rush hitting Sean Queen on a beautiful 19-yard touchdown pass for a 34-0 ELCA lead. ELCA added to the lead on the next drive when McCollum found a wide-open Queen for a 48-yard touchdown pass.

The fourth quarter was played under a running clock. Khaleb Hood recorded an interception in the final period, but Athens Academy capitalized on a Rush interception with a short 25-yard field goal by Drew Byus late in the fourth quarter to get on the scoreboard.

Mays led ELCA with 102 yards rushing. Menard added 76 yards and a touchdown, while McCollum chipped in with 69 yards and two total touchdowns. Rush accounted for two touchdowns, while Queen finished with 81 yards receiving and two touchdowns.

Taylor led the defense with 7.5 tackles, two sacks and three tackles for a loss. Johnathan Youngblood had 7.5 tackles as well.

ELCA’s senior class finished their careers with a record of 46-10 and three state championships. After losing 49-7 to Mount Paran Christian in the state championship as freshmen in 2014, ELCA has lost just three times since.

“They mean everything to me,” Gess said of his senior class. “When they were freshmen they could have left, they could have given up on football — but they didn’t. When you get beat 49-7, it’s embarrassing and so the way they stuck with it and they work and all that kind stuff. What we’ve been able to do in the last 36 games, I mean they’ll always be a special group in my heart.”

Box Score

ELCA 41, Athens Academy 3

ELCA 13 14 14 0 — 41

Athens Academy 0 0 0 3 — 3

First Quarter

ELCA: Rush 1 run (Reed kick) 4:41

ELCA: McCollum 39 run (kick fail) 2:04

Second Quarter

ELCA: Mitchell 9 run (Reed kick) 6:50

ELCA: Menard 70 run (Reed kick) 4:17

Third Quarter

ELCA: Queen 19 pass from Rush (Reed kick) 8:07

ELCA Queen 48 pass from McCollum (Reed kick) 5:41

Fourth Quarter

AA: Byus 25 field goal (1:39)



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