Photo by Donna Kennedy/Jeff Hurndon Photography
Henry County receiver Josh Forbes runs for some daylight in the Warhawks 23-14 loss at Eagle's Landing Christian Friday.
Even when things went horribly awry, Eagle’s Landing Christian found a way to make something right out of something wrong Friday. An interception in the first half was filed away, and became part of the blueprint for second-half redemption.
When the time was right, D.J. Curl suggested to his coach that now was the time for Aaron Spratlin and Scott Barlow to try to the play that got picked off before.
Only this time, it worked. Spratlin lofted a perfectly placed pass to Barlow in the right corner of the end zone, and the Chargers had the lead for good in what would become a 23-14 victory over visiting Henry County.
“The cornerback was up tight and we knew he was going to try to jump out on the route,” Spratlin said. “And he bit like we expected himto.”
Said Barlow, “It was perfect execution. It felt good because I changed the momentum of the game.”
Unlike last week in a 21-18 loss to Briarwood Christian, the breaks went ELCA’s way. The Chargers survived three turnovers and a handful of untimely penalties.
Perhaps no break was bigger than on a fourth-and-3 at Henry County’s 35 yard-line, when the Warhawks were flagged for pass interference with 9:19 to go in the third quarter.
A drive that looked dead in the water suddenly had new life and the Chargers didn’t waste it. Keyante Green ran with determination, shrugging off first hits and driving for a key first down. That gave the Chargers a first-and-goal at the 8.
But just as quickly, they shifted into reverse. Dalvin Tomlinson threw Green for a loss. A holding penalty pushed the Chargers back even farther. The Chargers faced third-and-goal from the 20 when they dusted off the Spratlin-to-Barlow idea.
The touchdown made it 20-14, but Cole Dellinger missed the extra point. But ELCA never lost faith in Dellinger’s ability, and that would be important later.
The Warhawks launched a 10-play drive from their own 38 after ELCA took the lead. But when Henry County needed a break, on fourth-and-goal at the 5, all the Warhawks got was Green and Caleb Lavigne throwing quarterback Chris Moody for a 6-yard loss. The Chargers took over and converted the possession into insurance points.
John Tatum, who had a 72-yard touchdown run in the first half, came up with another biggie. On the play after the Warhawks’ drive stalled, Tatum romped 69 yards to put the Chargers at the Warhawks 20. Tatum kept that drive alive with a tough 1-yard gain on fourth-and-1 at the Henry County 11.
But Spratlin was sacked three plays later. On fourth-and-goal from the 12, the ELCA quarterback assumed they’d be going for six again.
Instead, they went for three.
“I did think we were going for it, because we always have, but we’ve got a good kicker and I’m glad coach put confidence in him,” Spratlin said.
Coach Jonathan Gess’ confidence in Dellinger resulted in a 29-yard field goal and a nine-point lead with a little over nine minutes to play.
From there, Moody, the Henry County quarterback, stood in the pocket against intense pressure from Justin Thomason and Josh Shockley, trying to make something happen. Jonathan Jean-Bart ran on powerful legs. Phillip Staples came up with big catches.
And yet there was no payoff for Henry County. Even when it looked like something had happened good for the Warhawks, a penalty would nullify it — a touchdown called back because of a chop block, for instance.
And when something bad happened, nothing nullified it. Thus both teams are 1-1 going into their next games — Henry County against Jackson, while ELCA takes on Manchester.
Barlow shuddered at the prospect of being 0-2.
“That would’ve been terrible,” he said.