ELCA needs healthy Green

From Staff Reports

Eagle's Landing Christian Academy has already proven itself to be a good football team this season. The Chargers entered the season ranked for the first time in school history, defeated North Florida Christian, a Class A power in Florida, and defeated Henry County on Friday, a program first.

ELCA, ranked No. 8 going into Friday, hasn't been shy in making bold assertions about its potential this season.

"We feel like we're a state championship team," ELCA coach Jonathan Gess said after the Chargers' 13-6 win over Henry County on Friday.

But, the Chargers (2-0) don't feel they are a state championship team right now, not with star running back Keyonte Green ailing from multiple injuries he suffered in the first quarter against North Florida Christian two weeks ago.

Green was again severely limited against Henry County. He returned punts and kickoffs and played linebacker, because "a 65 percent Keyonte on defense is better than most," Gess said.

But, ankle and shoulder injuries have prevented the sophomore running back from duplicating his amazing production of last season. On Friday, Green had just 10 yards on four carries. He had just one carry, a 7-yard run, in the second half.

"We can play him on offense, but we can't subject him to that pounding and hope he'll get better," Gess said. "What we're really hoping for is after Friday night, when we get past Manchester and we get a week off, Keyante gets two weeks off and he heals up."

Gess lauded junior running back John Tatum, who has helped relieve some of the burden of Green's ineffectiveness. He rushed for 54 yards on 14 carries against Henry County and scored the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. Through two games, Tatum has 33 carries for 158 yards (4.7 yards per carry) and three touchdowns.

But, if ELCA wants to win a state championship, Green must have a bigger impact.

"We feel like we can win a state championship this year," Gess said, "but it's got to be with a healthy Keyante Green. He's not healthy right now."

OUT OF SYNC: Through two weeks, Henry County's offense has scored just 16 points and been prone to turnovers and penalties. ELCA held the Warhawks to just 91 yards of total offense Friday as Henry County fell to 0-2 for the first time since 2003.

"I'm not blaming anybody, but we're just not in sync offensively," Henry County coach Mike Rozier said.

SCORING DEFENSE: If there were any concerns about North Clayton's defense, then they have quickly been silenced through the first two games of the season. The Eagles have not been scored on in victories over Riverdale and Mundy's Mill.

Through the first two games, North Clayton's defense has scored 18 points, one on an interception return and two from fumble recoveries. Opponents are averaging just 113 yards of offense against the Eagles, who returned five starters from last season.

Defensively, the Eagles have two interceptions and four fumble recoveries.

"We have had some breakdowns at times," North Clayton defensive coordinator Max Wiltz said. "We are just looking for the team to be a little more consistent. I think it has helped that we are able to score with our defense."

STRONG RUNNING ATTACK: Despite the graduation of the state's leading rusher Clarence Jackson, the Eagles offense running attack remains strong. Sophomore Ladarrius Mathis has been the main workhorse in the offense with 342 yards and four touchdowns in two games.

However, the longest running play of the season belongs to senior Michael Ross. Against Mundy's Mill last week, he had a 36-yard run to setup his 11-yard touchdown run. That 11-yard touchdown run was also the longest offensive touchdown of the season for the Eagles.

PASSING GAME: Although North Clayton quarterback Dennis Johnson does not have any passing touchdowns, he does have two two-point conversion passes. In the first game, he hit Mathis for a two-point conversion and last week against Mundy's Mill, Ross was on the receiving end of a score.