By Derrick Mahone
Not long ago, ELCA was playing its football in the Georgia Independent School Association. The Chargers were a successful program in the league, winning the 1996 title and playing for the '97 title. In '05, ELCA made the jump to the GHSA where it has reached the playoffs each season. The only drawback has been that the Chargers have never advanced past the second round of the playoffs.
Earlier this season, ELCA had its first signature moment since joining the GHSA. It beat Wesleyan in the regular-season finale to claim the Region 5-A championship.
What makes ELCA good
Since Jonathan Gess took over as coach four years ago, the Chargers have bought into his philosophy of hard work and dedication to the weight room. The results have been an increase of wins in each of those seasons. Gess has brought a fearless attitude to the team and the Chargers non-region schedule usually includes at least one team in a higher classification.
This season, the Chargers played Florida Class A power North Florida Christian and had games against Class AAA Henry County and Class AA Manchester. Both teams made their respective classification playoff field.
The Chargers have some talent that would rival that of larger schools. ELCA's rushing attack is averaging close to nine yards per carry with Keyante Green, Avery Walls, Alex Williams and John Tatum getting the majority of the carries. All four will likely play on the college level.
Quarterback Aaron Spratlin has been steady with his favorite target being Christian Reeves, who is expected to sign a scholarship with ACC power Virginia Tech.
Defensively, the Chargers are only yielding a touchdown a game and has taken on the personality of coordinator Dan Curl, a former Marine.
Assistant head coach Jason Carrera says that the teams commitment to the weight room and summer workouts has proved to be invaluable. The Chargers have participated in seven-on-seven passing leagues against higher-level competition. By the end of the summer, Carrera says that the team has the majority of its passing package in.
"The team has bought into what we are doing," Carrera said. "We like to throw it around, but we also like running the ball."
And defensively, the team gets after it. Because of its athleticism, the Chargers are able to take some risk.