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No worries: Dutchtown clinched first playoff berth

From Staff Reports

The state playoffs don't officially start until Friday, but Dutchtown coach Jason Galt treated last week's regular-season Region 3-AAAA play-in game as if it was playoff contest.

Dutchtown players responded with a 17-7 win over Northgate to clinch its first state playoff berth in school history.

With his players not having any playoff experience, Galt admitted to being a little concerned at how they would handle the pressure.

"You are always concerned about games," he said. "We had a good week of practice. We were a lot more focused this week than we were against Woodland."

Dutchtown spotted the Vikings 7-0 points in the first quarter before scoring 17 unanswered points for the win to improve to 9-1 overall.

"Our defense came up big when it needed to make plays," Dutchtown defensive lineman David Daniels said.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Eagle's Landing Christian's offense was in top form in its 35-28 win at Wesleyan on Friday, and its defense improved significantly after allowing 161 total yards of offense in the first quarter.

But on special teams, the Chargers' performance was a mixed bag.

The bad: Wesleyan faced fourth-and-seven trailing 35-21 with three minutes left. The Wolves lined up to punt, though it was clear, given the circumstances, it would be a fake. Indeed, Wesleyan ran a fake punt, getting a 19-yard run to convert the first down and continue its drive, which ended five plays later with a touchdown. ELCA (10-0) ran a fake field goal, but didn't convert and Wesleyan (9-1) scored on the ensuing possession.

THE GOOD: Twice the Chargers' punt unit pinned Wesleyan inside its own 10-yard line where the Wolves offense had little room to operate; and after scoring to go up 27-14 in the third quarter, the Chargers recovered the ball on the ensuing kickoff on a high pooch kick.

MVPs: ELCA coach Jonathan Gess lauded the performance of his team Friday at Wesleyan, where the Chargers captured their first region title since joining the GHSA in 2004. But he was particularly complimentary of three players: Aaron Spratlin, Christian Reeves and Avery Walls.

"Those guys were the MVPs tonight," Gess said.

Spratlin and Reeves were a dynamic combination. Spratlin completed 11 of 18 passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns, making several critical throws in the first half while the Chargers ground game struggled. Reeves was his favorite target, catching seven passes for 131 yards and a touchdown.

Walls provided ELCA with a much-needed spark on offense in the second half, running for a 43-yard touchdown on the Chargers second possession of the third quarter. He later left the game with cramping.

MISTAKE-FREE FOOTBALL: Although Dutchtown only had 219 yards of offense and eight first downs in its win over Northgate, Galt was pleased that the team cut down on its penalties.

The Bulldogs were only penalized three times for 40 yards.

"It was very uncharacteristic of us the last couple of weeks to get a lot of penalties," Galt said.

"We tell the players if we don't turn the ball over and cut down on our mistakes, then we have a chance to win. We can't beat ourselves."