By Doug Gorman
When Eagle's Landing Christian Academy administrators made the decision to leave the Georgia Independent School Association for membership in the Georgia High School Association, skeptics said they would never compete.
Two years into its affiliation with the GHSA, Chargers' athletic programs are proving to be more than competitive.
This fall, the school's softball team made it to the state sectionals, and won a Region 5-A title. Saturday morning, the ELCA volleyball team begins play in the Class A/AA volleyball tournament.
Friday night, the school's football team plays what is arguably its biggest game in years when it entertains Landmark Christian in a game to decide the Region 5-A champion.
Eagle's Landing Christian comes into the final regular season game with a 7-2 overall record. Landmark Christian brings a 6-3 mark to the game in McDonough. Both teams are 3-0 in region competition.
A year ago, the two teams met at Landmark Christian in Fairburn in a game that was also for the region title. Landmark won that contest 34-21. Eagle's Landing Christian settled for a second seed in last year's playoffs, and fell to Hancock Central in the first round of the playoffs.
ELCA coach Nick Westbrook is confident his team will be ready for the rematch with Landmark.
“We were tied them going into the fourth quarter last year, and we really feel like we have a shot,” Westbrook said. “We put ourselves in this position. That's why they play the football game.”
That playoff game with Hancock Central was the last for head coach Tim Luke, who stepped down to spend more time with his family. Assistant coach Nick Westbrook was elevated to head coach, and the Chargers haven't missed a beat this year.
Except for a loss to state-ranked Bremen, which have been ranked as high as No.-1 in the Class A Associated Press poll this season, and a loss to North Oconee, ELCA has cruised by its opponents.
Westbrook's team has put itself in position to win the region by using balanced offensive attack and a stingy defense. In last week's region 27-0 victory against Mt. Zion of Carrollton, ELCA rolled up nearly 400 yards and held the Eagles to just 61 yards total offense.
It was the team's fifth shutout in a row and its fourth straight.
Landmark comes into the game having won three of its last four games. A week ago, however, in a region game against Whitefield, the War Eagles struggled, before sneaking away with a 20-13 victory.
When Eagle's Landing Christian played Whitefield, it was also just an eight-point win, as the Chargers won 8-0.
Regardless of the outcome Friday night, both teams have already made the playoffs, which start next week.