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ELCA’s Gess gets extra blessing before big game

Jeff Hurndon Photography / ELCA coach Jonathan Gess skipped practice Wednesday for the birth of his first child but doesn’t think it will be a distraction in the Class A private school championship today.

Jeff Hurndon Photography / ELCA coach Jonathan Gess skipped practice Wednesday for the birth of his first child but doesn’t think it will be a distraction in the Class A private school championship today.

McDONOUGH —The possibility was there and Eagle’s Landing Christian football coach Jonathan Gess knew it. The birth of his first child was expected Dec. 23, right after a potential state championship appearance, but close enough for anything to happen.

It happened.

Gess had to miss practice when his wife, Dee, gave birth to their son, Uriah Paul, around 3:50 p.m., on Wednesday, two days before the Chargers were to take on Prince Avenue Christian in the Class A private school championship game at the Georgia Dome.

“Everything went smoothly,” Gess said. “The baby’s healthy. The wife is healthy. So everything’s good. ... He didn’t want to miss the game.”

Certainly, it’s made preparation for today’s game a bit more hectic for Gess. He spent much of Thursday morning watching tape of Wednesday’s practice run by the rest of his staff. Gess led ELCA through practice Thursday afternoon but skipped film session to be home with his wife and son.

“We’ve got a great staff,” Gess said. “Our defensive coordinator [Derek Chastain] can run things well and we’ve got good offensive coaches who run things well. Things went really smooth.”

“Our coaches kept us focused on what we needed to do,” ELCA running back and linebacker Keyante Green said. “He was happy he could have a son, but everybody was focused.”

Indeed, it’s been a moment like this that reminds Gess of what it takes to become the county’s first high school ever to appear in a state championship game.

“High school coaches are successful when they’re a school that have great administrators, great teachers, great parents, great students,” Gess said. “I’m in a great situation. ... We’re just a piece of the puzzle.”