Jeff Hurndon Photography / Eagle’s Landing Christian made the most of its first trip to the Georgia Dome, returning with the Class A private school championship.
Staff writer Brian Paglia looks back at Eagle’s Landing Christian’s historical 2012 season and ahead at what might be in store next year.
The season: Hope you didn’t miss the ending. Eagle’s Landing Christian defeated Prince Avenue Christian 33-0 in the Class A private school championship game at the Georgia Dome, capping a 13-1 season and winning the program’s first Georgia High School Association state title. After losing to Washington County in its season-opener, ELCA reeled off 13 straight victories to the final history-making one.
What went right: The Chargers have been able to score points for awhile now, even before star running back Keyante Green entered the program four years ago. But ELCA lacked a defense that could dominate in the later rounds of the playoffs against other elite opponents. No one looked elite against the Chargers’ defense this season. After the WACO loss, ELCA’s starting defense didn’t allow a touchdown until the first round of the playoffs and held Prince Avenue to just 136 total yards of offense in the state finals.
What needs to improve: Hmmm ... good question. A potent offense, a devastating defense. What else was ELCA missing? If there’s anything, perhaps head coach Jonathan Gess would’ve preferred to avoid all the drama with injuries. At various times, significant contributors like Green (ankle), D.J. Curl (ankle), Bryson Durden (hamstring), Isaac Rochell (hand), Dalton Ethridge (ankle) and others missed action because of injuries. But the Chargers never missed a beat on the scoreboard, a testament to their impressive depth this season.
Chances for next season: Let’s start with what the Chargers will have to replace — running back/linebacker Green; defensive end Rochell; defensive backs Curl, Marquis Griffin and Jevius Terry; and offensive linemen Jake Martin and Tyler Petty, among others. Now consider what ELCA brings back — quarterback Etheridge, wide receiver Davis Carrandi; linebackers Durden, Josh Shockley and Chase Burdette; and defensive lineman Andrew Williams, among others. Yes, there are holes to fill, but the Chargers have enough star power returning to be considered the favorite in the private school ranks again.
Coach Gess says: “I had a very special senior class. I don’t think it was many, 12 or 13 maybe, but very special. Great chemistry there with that class. You’re not going to replace them. ... But hopefully they’ve left a legacy and an expectation for the next class and the next group of people.”