Offenses win games, defenses win championships.
High school coaches have been saying that ever since teams played the game in football helmets made of leather.
The art of playing good defense isn't lost on Eagle's Landing Christian Academy.
The Chargers have moved into the third-round of the Class A state playoffs for the first time in school history with Friday night's 35-21 victory over George Walton, setting up next week's clash against No. 1-ranked Clinch County. (A Saturday morning coin flip will decide who gets to host the game.)
Sure the ELCA offense did its thing, throwing a balanced attack at the Bulldogs that accounted for 203 rushing and 175 passing, but when the Chargers needed stops, the defense rose to the occasion.
"The reason we are 12-0 and we are going to the third round of the playoffs is because we have a great defense," ELCA head coach Jonathan Gess said.
Gess can thank defensive coordinator Dan Curl for bringing a new attitude to that side of the ball. Since Gess brought Curl aboard things have clicked.
"From the beginning of the year, we always said we are only has strong as our weakest link," Curl said.
Curl has been the architect of great defenses for years. It started back when he was coaching youth football. For nearly three years Curl's teams didn't give up a score and in the process collected several national youth league championships.
Sure, the high school game is a little tougher, but Curl's defensive philosophy is the same—play hard and leave everything on the field.
But this group of Chargers must be listening to the ex Marine who calls himself a perfectionist and demands the same accountability from the guys that dress out on Friday nights for the Chargers.
"It's about doing your job and getting it done," said senior Tanner Rogers, one of the many players who is listening when Curl speaks.
ELCA has pitched four shutouts this season and went three weeks in a row without giving up a point at one stretch of 2010 campaign.
"The coaches have great plans and we just go out there and try and execute it," said Cole Carrera. "It's a high intensity defensive."
Friday night ELCA had one of its toughest battles of the year, giving up 284 yards of total offense.
The Chargers found themselves in a dogfight late in the game, with the do-or-die contest tied at 14 and 21.
Offensively the Charges got two late touchdowns from Keyante Green and John Tatum, but then the defense stepped up late in the fourth quarter when Avery Walls and Will Dellinger intercepted passes to kill any hope George Walton had at pulling of the upset.
Throughout the night, ELCA also pressured George Walton quarterback Ty Shelnuttt. The Chargers' rock-solid defense also forced two early fumbles.
Curl was delighted with the team's victory, but not so excited that Bulldogs found the end zone twice against the defense. (One of George Walton's scores came on an interception return for touchdown).
"I am mad that they were able to score twice tonight," Curl said.
Any touchdown the defensive unit gives up is one too many in Curl's eyes.
But his passion for football runs deep. He knows each week from here on out his defensive unit is going to face bigger tests. He's ready and his young men are ready.
It might just be the blue print this team needs to bring home the Class A title. After all, offenses win games, defenses win championships
(Doug Gorman is sports editor of the Clayton News Daily and Henry Da)