Boys Varsity Football
Head Coach: Jonathan Gess (10th season)
2017 Record: 13-0 (Class A State Champs)
Region: 5 A-Private
Last Playoff Appearance: 2017
Aug. 17 Morrow
Aug. 24 at Pace Academy
Aug. 31 at Heritage-Conyers
Sept. 14 Holy Innocents’
Sept. 21 Trinity Christian
Sept. 28 at Wesleyan
Oct. 5 Our Lady of Mercy
Oct. 19 at Strong Rock Christian
Oct. 26 Mount Vernon
Nov. 2 at Landmark Christian
Key Losses: DB Khaleb Hood, RB Josh Mays, DB/WR Tre Douglas, WR Sean Queen, DB Thad Underwood, LB George Shockley, DL Harrison Taylor, DL Caleb Dallas, OL Zack Jones, OL Martin Yates, OL Ethan McClure, OL Gavan George, DL Tyrese Black
Key Returners: QB Brayden Rush, RB Keaton Mitchell, RB/WR Justin Menard, RB/WR Jelan Pearson, WR Jordan Jakes, OL Evan Zember, K Austin Reed, LB Johnathan Youngblood, DL Marquis Black, DB Jack Buckley
Outlook: The Chargers are in the midst of one of the best runs in state history. They will enter the 2018 season as three-time defending Class A-Private champions and with 36 straight wins. ELCA will be favored to win a fourth straight title due to the returns of many key contributors from a season ago.
“I can see how expectations from the outside looking in are massive. Our philosophy at ELCA has always been ‘win the day,’ head coach Jonathan Gess said. “When you set your eyes on outside expectations you lose focus on you. When you lose focus on you, you are overcome with anxiety, worry and stress. We are diligent in preaching that today is what matters.”
Offensively, Brayden Rush returns at quarterback after totalling 34 touchdowns last season. He will be surrounded by playmakers, two of which were a part of ELCA’s state champion 400-meter relay team. Keaton Mitchell (979 yards, 20 TDs) and Justin Menard (950 yards, 10 TDs) will give the Chargers a dangerous rushing attack.
ELCA will need to replace four All-County offensive lineman from a season ago. Evan Zember, also an All-County selection in 2017, and Cody Carder are expected to step into leadership roles up front.
Gess and defensive coordinator Brett Collier will have some work to do to replace several starters from last year’s defense, a unit that recorded six shutouts, including three in the playoffs. 2017 Defensive Player of the Year Harrison Taylor, along with Tre Douglas, Kahleb Hood, Tyrese Black and George Shockley, were All-County performers a season ago.
The Chargers will welcome back a playmaker at each level, starting with All-County performer Marquis Black up front. Senior Johnathan Youngblood (112 tackles, 5 INTs) will lead the linebackers, while Jack Buckley will captain the secondary.
Austin Reed will retain the kicking duties after a solid freshman season a year ago.