Photo by Brian Paglia
Eagle's Landing coach Joe Teknipp will lead his unbeaten Golden Eagles against an undefeated Luella team.
Dutchtown’s not supposed to lose to a Henry County opponent. Eagle’s Landing Christian’s not supposed to lose during the regular season. Luella’s not supposed to be 2-0, with a chance to go to 3-0 against a team that’s not supposed to be 1-0.
But in the topsy-turvy world that is this high school football season, what’s supposed to be ain’t what it used to be. Wha’'s happening here?
“It’s a huge thing,” said Eagle’s Landing coach Joe Teknipp, whose Golden Eagles marched back from a 21-point deficit and beat Rutland 34-27 last week. That ended an 11-game losing streak and a stretch in which they lost 20 of 21 games.
Eagle's Landing takes on Luella tonight in a matchup of surprising teams. The Lions seem to blend right in with the rest of Region 2-AAAAA, undefeated like everybody else, and have a chance to reach 3-0 for only the second time in school history tonight.
“I know with maxpreps.com and the guys who do their state rankings we weren’t picked to win the last couple of weeks,” Luella coach Nic Vasilchek said. “I know we’ve had some disappointed coaching staffs that we’ve shaken hands with (after games against) Jones County and Villa Rica. Not many people outside our locker room expected us to be 2-0, but it doesn’t matter.”
For the first time in 19 regular-season games, Eagle’s Landing Christian is trying to bounce back from defeat. Granted, the Chargers played a Birmingham team that finished as runner-up in Alabama’s Class 5A — and with 26 fewer players than their opponents dressed out — but it’s still a little unsettling to see ELCA at 0-1.
And if that’s troubling, there’s a real possibility the Chargers could be trying to rebound from a doubly unsettling 0-2, given that they're playing Henry County, of which big things are expected this season in larger Class AAA. But let’s not get carried away here: The Chargers are still regarded as a threat to go all the way in Class A this season, and these bumps in the road may be just what it takes to get over the hump against the likes of playoff nemeses Lincoln County and Clinch County.
Big things also were expected of Dutchtown, which had dominated county competition since 2007. All the Bulldogs dominated last week against Stockbridge was the time of possession. They held onto the ball for the first 13 minutes.
Said Stockbridge coach Kevin Whitley: “That’s not something you see every day.”
Neither is this: Stockbridge 28, Dutchtown 12. End of eight-game county winning streak for Dutchtown.
“We didn’t get the ball until 11 minutes were left in the second quarter,” Whitley said. “We wanted a little better defense starting out. But our defense settled in. We had only nine offensive plays, but we had 21 points. Clearly, they dominated the time of possession, but we had the more explosive plays.”
Teams have gotten tired of the status quo.
“We were down 27-6 and we didn’t panic,” said Teknipp, whose Eagle’s Landing team is trying to go 2-0 for the first time since 2005. “They trusted their ability and came together. It wasn't one of those flash finishes. (Rutland) got only two first downs the rest of the game and we didn't punt all night. The kids just decided they were tired of losing."
Even when it looked like defeat wanted to rear its ugly head, the Golden Eagles weren't having it.
“We had a touchdown called back — my son broke a 58-yarder,” Teknipp said. “Most teams would be heartbroken. They just said, ‘OK, we'’l run some more time off the clock.’ The drive that tied the game was an eight-minute drive.”
Though Eagle’s Landing knows it can come back, Teknipp would rather not see that happen tonight.
“Hopefully, we don't dig ourselves a hole,” the coach said. “I know Luella is going to be supremely confident. Hopefully, we'll show that we can play with the big boys because they’re (Class AAAAA).”