By Derrick Mahone
Eagle's Landing Christian coaching staff had reason to be concerned about their first round Class A matchup with Washington-Wilkes on Friday.
First, ELCA was coming off a big, emotional win over Wesleyan for its first region championship. The Chargers just climbed in several polls.
How would the Chargers handle success?
"We have a goal, and it is to win in the playoffs," ELCA senior running back Alex Williams said. "We set a goal last season that we didn't want anyone to stop us."
The Chargers met little resistance from visiting Washington-Wilkes in a 49-7 win to advance to the second round of the playoffs. This is the third straight season that the Chargers have advance to the second round.
"We must stay focused and determined if we want to get the job done," ELCA coach Jonathan Gess told his team during their postgame talk.
The Chargers played the entire game without standout wideout Christian Reeves, who was nursing a leg injury he sustained earlier in the week at practice. With its potent rushing attack clicking, the Chargers didn't need Reeves' services.
ELCA rushed for 350 yards with four different running back scoring. Williams carried most of the workload as he rushed for 159 yards on 13 carries with a touchdown. He scored on a 22-yard run with 52 seconds remaining in the first half as the Chargers took a 28-7 lead into the intermission.
Washington-Wilkes, the No. 4 seed from Region 7-A, looked as if it would make a game of it when running back T.J. Mickens scored on a 5-yard run to tie it at 7-7 with 3:15 remaining in the first quarter.
The Tigers game-tying touchdown came after ELCA quarterback Aaron Spratlin's pass was intercepted by Brian Hardigree at their 23-yard line. It only took the Tigers seven plays to tie the game.
However, the Chargers were able to score 42 unanswered points to put the game out of hand.
"Our kids overcame the adversity of the interception, and responded," Gess said. "We knew that Washington-Wilkes was going to be one of the better teams that we faced. They were very athletic. Our guys just kept battling." In addition to Williams, the Chargers got a big rushing game from senior Avery Walls, who rushed for 67 yards and a touchdown. Keyante Green rushed for 111 yards and two touchdowns.
The Chargers speed on the corners were too much for Washington-Wilkes to handle.
"Our jet sweeps were really working," said running back John Tatum, who scored three touchdowns.
"You got to give credit to our offensive line," Williams said. "We were really making the blocks."
As dominating as the offense was, the defense was equally up to the task. The Chargers held Washington-Wilkes to only 138 yards of offense. ELCA recovered two fumbles and got an interception to setup scoring drives.
"We were able to carry out all our assignments," ELCA defensive tackle Tyron Black said. "The coaches have really did a good job of getting us ready."