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ELCA hopes to make playoff run

gorman@news-daily.com

When Eagle's Landing Christian Academy decided to make the jump from the Georgia Independent School Association to the Georgia High School Association in 2004, skeptics thought the private Christian School from McDonough was crazy.

It didn't take ELCA long to prove their critics wrong as the Chargers became state champions and contenders in most sports right away.

Since joining the GHSA, the Chargers have brought home a state crowns in baseball, swimming and three in a row in softball.

Now, the ELCA football team (8-2) is hoping for its shot at winning a state title.

It all starts tonight when the Chargers play host to Darlington (6-4) in the opening round of the Class A tournament tonight at 7:30.

The Chargers football team has been in the playoffs every year since making the move to the GHSA, but have hit a road block in the first or second round of the postseason most years.

"We all are supportive of one another," said wide receiver Austin Murphy, who began playing football at ELCA in middle school. "But the football team wants its chance to bring home a state title. I have played for three different coaches, but I think this is our best offense, and by far our best defense. We are all loving it."

Head coach Jonathan Gess guided his team to the playoffs last year, but after going 6-4 in the regular season, the Chargers made a quick exit in the playoffs, falling to Warren County 42-29.

"It's amazing what a second-year can do for a team," Gess said. "Last year, they were trying to get to know me, and I was getting to know them. Now we our all own the same page."

The Charges face Darlingmembers of the ELCA defense are confident they can make it along night for the Tigers.

Eagle's Landing Christian pitched shutouts this season against Warren County (20-0), Our Lady of Mercy (28-0) and Pace Academy (27-0) en route to an 8-2 oveall record and a 7-1 mark in the league.

Darlington has been well tested this year. As a member of Region 6-A, the Tigers have played against two of the best Class A teams in the state, losing to No. 5-ranked Bowdon 12-6 and No. 7-ranked Bremen 31-6.

But linebacker Adam Rutledge knows what it's going to take to get a first round win.

"We have to stop the run," he said. "Our defense is going to be the key to this game, although our offense has been playing well too.

The Chargers come into tonight's playoff game outscoring its opponents 257-113 during the 10 game regualr season.

Defensive back Michael Smith, who is the son of former Forest Park head coach Bob Smith, arrived at ELCA in the summer and quickly saw the team's unity.

That's something he says can go along way in a team's drive to the state title.

""Everybody is together on both sides of the ball here," he said. "We have capitalized on defefense and been able to shut down teams, that's going to be the key tonight."