Photos by Jerry Jackson / Of the Southern Crescent’s remaining high school football playoff teams, Lovejoy’s Travis Custis has come up big when the Wildcats have needed it most.
It is definable by the moment and the player that rises with it. Engineering the game-winning drive.
Stretching to make the season-saving catch. Feeling the pressure of the play, game or season and shoving it aside.
That’s what being “clutch” means.
Staff writers Brian Paglia and Gabriel Stovall look at Lovejoy and ELCA to find who delivers in the clutch.
Brandon Davis and Travis Custis, Lovejoy
Why Davis and Custis: The senior corner has turned in several 100-plus yard interception returns, including a 105 yarder against in Marietta in the second round of the playoffs with the game still somewhat in doubt. That gave Davis his fourth pick six of the season. As for Custis, the Georgia Tech commitment has rushed for over 1,600 yards and 30 touchdowns this year after rushing for 1,839 last year as the Wildcats made advanced to the Region AAAA state championship game. Like last year, Custis has seemingly strengthened down the stretch as No. 7 Lovejoy inches closer to another shot at a title.
Davis’ clutch definition: “When you just go out there and make plays when your team needs them the most. When you go out there and just get in the right places at the right times.”
Their clutch moments: For Davis, it is the interception returned for a touchdown against Marietta. The Blue Devils and their blue chip recruit quarterback Anthony Jennings were driving to make it a one score game late in the fourth quarter. Davis’ ability to not only jump in front of the pass to end the drive, but also score proved to be the dagger. For Custis, Hughes recalls a time during Lovejoy’s 43-24 win against Alpharetta in Week Three where the game was still close and Custis told his coach he wanted to take over. “He came up to me and said, ‘Coach just give me the pill.’ And from late in the second quarter on we just got on his shoulders and let him carry us.” Custis carried 38 times for 152 yards and three touchdowns that night.
Coach Al Hughes says: “When I think about clutch right now, it’s those two guys, Brandon Davis and Travis Custis, whose names keep coming to my mind. Seems like everytime we need a big turnover or run back on defense Brandon makes it happen. And Travis is guy that can just put us on his shoulders. You can’t talk about clutch without talking about those guys.”
Dalton Etheridge and Keyante Green, ELCA
Why Etheridge and Green: Etheridge, a junior quarterback, has provided the No. 1-ranked Chargers with a play-making dynamic it hasn’t had before. When ELCA is forced into third- and fourth-and-long situations, he has the ability to make plays with his arm and feet. Green, a senior running back/linebacker, has produced several memorable moments throughout his four years starting on varsity, coming up with big runs, tough yards or pivotal tackles.
Their clutch definition: “You’re able to do things that others can’t do,” Green said, “and you’re able to do them consistently.” Etheridge added: “Being the best when everyone else isn’t performing well enough.”
Their clutch idol: “Barry Sanders,” Green said. “He was a hard-worker, and his legs never stopped moving. He just kept going.” Etheridge added: “Tebow! Last year at Denver, he showed how to be clutch at the end of games.”
Their clutch moments: Green said the first he remembers was his explosive performance against Lincoln County in the state playoffs his freshmen season. Despite the loss, Green rushed for 391 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns against one of the state’s most reputable programs. For Etheridge, it was the Chargers’ victory against Our Lady of Mercy during the regular season. Facing fourth down with just a few seconds left before the half, Etheridge dropped back to pass. He scrambled and scrambled, making several defenders miss, before hitting wide receiver Davis Carrandi in the end zone.
ELCA coach Jonathan Gess says: “Being clutch is being a person who makes plays. It’s when your backs are against the wall and you need someone to step up. It’s guys who have done it before in big games. That’s Keyante and Dalton for us. We’ve seen it. They’ve done it.”