By Derrick Mahone
The Eagle's Landing Christian and Clinch County Class A quarterfinals has all the makings of an instant classic.
It's the classification's top-ranked team (Clinch County) against the second-ranked team (ELCA). Both squads feature an array of talented players on both sides of the ball.
Clinch county represents the old guard in Class A with four state titles and 15 region championships since the school started playing football in 1952. ELCA has been around since 1974, but the majority of the time the school, which has also been known as McDonough Christian and Meadowcreek Academy, has played in the Georgia Independent School Association.
This marks the second time since joining the GHSA that the Chargers will face the Class A top-ranked team.
In 2006, ELCA lost 34-0 at No. 1 Lincoln County in the second round of the playoffs to end its season with a 10-2 record.
"They are going to be fast and a good team," ELCA senior receiver Christian Reeves said. "We know they are going to play hard. We are on a break this week from school, so we have to get our mind zeroed in and focused on them. We are pretty excited about playing."
While ELCA hasn't had much luck against ranked teams, the Chargers have pulled a couple upsets. The most notable was a 35-28 win at second-ranked Wesleyan for the Region 5-A championship. Prior to that, the Chargers only other win over a ranked opponent came in 2007 when they defeated Bremen 33-25, which was ranked No. 7 in the state at the time.
Last week's game against George Walton Academy showed that the Chargers can handle in-game adversity. They had to fight off a feisty team to reach the quarterfinals for the first time in school history in the GHSA.
"We haven't faced that much adversity all year, but we know how to deal with adversity because of how hard we work," junior quarterback Aaron Spratlin said.
"We preach all year long is to keep working, keep pounding and keep plugging," Chargers coach Jonathan Gess said. "This team has character, and they are going to fight. We have been through so much as a program."
Now, the Chargers will make the four-hour trek to Homerville to battle Clinch County with hopes of earning state-wide respect. The team knows that a win over the storied program would bring them so respect.
"People have doubted us all year," Reeves said. "I think we have won some respect this year. A win over a team like Clinch would make a big statement."