McDONOUGH — During the past 11 games, when the fourth quarter came, Eagle’s Landing Christian pretty much had the game secured.
The fourth quarter usually meant the reserves were getting some valuable playing time for the top-ranked Chargers.
Like the majority of football teams, ELCA players would raise their hands, displaying four fingers as the fourth quarter started. But Friday was different.
The four-finger salute was more than a fourth-quarter formality.
And you could tell as Chargers coach Jonathan Gess gathered his players at the 50-yard line on the sideline and gave a fiery 20-second pep talk. For the first time since the season-opener against Washington County, ELCA was in for a fight.
Were the Chargers ready for a four-quarter battle this late in the season? After 11 games of dominating its competition, it was time to see if ELCA would fight or fold.
To no one’s surprise, the Chargers rose to the occasion and celebrated on Commitment Field with a 27-14 win over visiting George Walton Academy on Friday.
The win, their 12th in a row, sends the Chargers to the Georgia Dome next week to play for the Class A private school championship.
It will be the first time that a Henry County school plays for a football state title.
“I knew coming in that we would have a fight on our hands with George Walton,” Gess said as his team celebrated just a few yards away.
“I knew that it was going to be a war with George Walton, and I’m proud of my team,” he continued. “I thought, if we could get to the third and fourth quarter, that we would have a shot.”
Now, the Chargers have a shot at winning it all.
They will meet Prince Avenue Christian on Friday at the Georgia Dome in a winner-takes-all affair.
The last four years, senior running back/linebacker Keyante Green has been chasing that elusive state title. Each year, the Chargers have come up short, losing in the second round, quarterfinals and semifinals.
As ELCA elected to ground it out in the second half Friday, clinging to a lead, it wasn’t surprising that Green wanted the ball.
He demanded the ball.
In the fourth quarter, Gess recalled that Green told him to give him the ball.
Never mind a bad ankle that kept him out of most of the second half of the first-round playoff win over Our Lady of Mercy. That same injury didn’t allow him to get on the field last week against Savannah Christian.
But this potentially could have been his last high school game. Green didn’t want it to end at Commitment Field with a loss.
In the second half, he had 11 carries for 80 yards.
“It is unbelievable,” Green said. “We have been working hard for this.”
Only one more week of work is left as the Chargers attempt to bring home a title.
Derrick Mahone is the sports editor for the Clayton News Daily/Henry Daily Herald newspapers. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.