By Fletcher Proctor
ELCA charges into Private finals
The Chargers of Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy (12-1) have nearly wiped away all of the demons from the last few seasons. The Chargers fell in the semifinals last year and started the year 12-0 in 2010 before losing in the quarterfinals. After stomping Our Lady of Mercy to open up the playoffs, then soundly defeating the defending Class A champions in the quarterfinals, Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy took down George Walton Academy 27-14 in the team’s closest win of the season.
The Chargers have battled injuries all season. Do-it-all standout Keyante Green missed time earlier in the year and the future Purdue Boilermaker has been hobbled of late with an ankle injury. When healthy, Green has played all over the field for coach Jonathan Gess, including running back, linebacker and some quarterback. Starting quarterback Dalton Etheridge appears to be healthy again, and his touchdown late in the semifinals iced the win for the Chargers. He was also a key player in the huge victory over Savannah Christian, accounting for five scores in the 42-7 win. If Green cannot go, Lane Timpson could see some carries. He scored on a five-yard run against George Walton.
Defensively, Isaac Rochell has been able to play through wearing a cast for part of the year. The star defensive end will play at Notre Dame next year. In the last game, D.J. Curl, Marquis Griffin and Jevious Terry all recorded interceptions against Georgie Walton Academy. The Chargers defense also held star junior Stanley Williams to just 139 yards and no touchdowns, something the rest of the state had failed to figure out this season.
Terry’s biggest plays came on special teams. Terry, who had just returned from an ankle injury, returned the game’s opening kickoff for a score and later blocked and returned a field goal attempt for a score.
Prince Avenue Christian (11-2) extended its season with a 32-22 victory over 2011 finalist Landmark Christian last week, just one week after upsetting No. 1 Athens Academy. The Wolverines defense has been the heartbeat of Mark Farriba’s team all season, but it was the 5-foot-6 junior quarterback Zack Graham that came up with the biggest play of the game in the semifinal win. Graham hit tight end Titus Campbell on a 44-yard touchdown to help build an early lead. Carl Mattox would also contribute 166 yards and two scores to pace the offense, something he has done all season. Mattox rushed for 121 yards and a score in the quarterfinal win over Athens Academy. Bryce Huff and Connor Sibley also are major contributors to the running game.
The defense, meanwhile, has backed up that strong rushing attack with six games of seven or fewer points allowed. Even in the team’s pair of losses, the defense game up just 14 and 17 points to Athens Academy, the No. 1 seed in the Class A-private bracket, and George Walton Academy, a semifinalist, respectively. Farriba’s team has earned its shot at a title thanks to a host of two-way players including Mattox, who also plays defensive back, and Christian Payne. The latter blocked a punt and had a pair of sacks in the win over Athens Academy.
Postseason success has only recently found its way to Prince Avenue Christian in Bogart. The program made the postseason for the first time in 2010 and last year reached the semifinals. The team should be ready for whatever comes its way in the finals after battling playoff teams such as Savannah Christian, Athens Christian, Athens Academy, Commerce and George Walton Academy before the playoffs even began.
Adams leads talented Dooly squad in Public finals
Dooly County (11-2) is the headed back to the state finals after a a 10-year absence. The Bobcats last made the finals in 2002, and before than 1983, falling both times. The GHSA seeded Dooly County as the No. 5 team in the Class A-Public bracket, but Jimmy Hughes’ squad has been an upset machine, tossing aside No. 4 Seminole County 34-28 before taking out No. 1 Lincoln County 10-7.
Defensive tackle Montravius Adams is a monster on the defensive interior at 6-foot-4, 310 pounds. Several recruiting sites list him as the No. 1 player at the position, with one service calling him the best player in Georgia, over the likes of Carl Lawson and Robert Nkemdiche. Last week against Lincoln County, Adams lived in the Lincoln County backfield, harassing whoever had the ball. He also recovered an onside kick and even ran the ball on offense. Other standouts on defense include Tay Daniels and Mark Clark, who blocked a field goal and returned it for a score, respectively, against Lincoln County.
The true offensive standouts could not manage a score against Lincoln County, but quarterback A.J. Smith is more than capable of carrying the load in the postseason. Smith found success against Seminole County in the quarterfinals, passing for 255 yards and four scores. Lloyd and Chanin Hamilton each racked up more than 60 yards rushing in the Bobcats’ most recent win.
Dooly County has won six straight games since falling 12-7 to Marion County back on Oct. 19. The playoffs have seen the Bobcats roll off a 19-8 win over Turner County before the upsets of Seminole County and Lincoln County. Jimmy Hughes’ Bobcats lost in the first round of the playoffs last season.
Emanuel County Institute (12-1) is ready to run wild with James Brown, Greg Purcell and Michael Sutton. ECI rushed for 439 yards in a win over Gordon Lee in Round 1 action and then the team used Brown and Purcell to put away Trion. In the semifinals against No. 2 Wilcox County, Purcell torched the Patriots defense for 119 yards while Brown scampered for 105 yards. Brown has now rushed for 437 yards in his team’s three postseason games and Purcell has passed the century mark twice after gaining 103 yards against Gordon Lee. Two other ECI backs have racked up at least 400 yards rushing this season, and the trio of Brown Purcell and Sutton have combined for 2,300 yards and 34 scores.
Caleb Pressley, who has signed to play baseball at Georgia Southern, brings plenty of athleticism to the quarterback position for Chris Kearson’s Wing-T offense. He has thrown for nearly 1,000 yards and 14 touchdowns this year.
The defense will need to buckle down after allowing 27 points to Wilcox County in the semifinals. The defense is averaging just 12 points per game, a number skewed by the 48 points the team allowed on Sept. 7 to AAA power Washington County in the team’s only loss. The Bulldogs allowed just 20 points over one six-game stretch, recording the defense’s two shutouts on the year against Portal and Johnson County. Kearson’s team entered the GHSA Class-A Public bracket as the No. 3 seed before whipping Gordon Lee 46-12 and Trion 27-10. ECI defeated Wilcox County 38-27 last week.
ECI is back in the finals for the first time since 2008 and seeking its first title since 2007, when current Thomson head coach Milan Turner roamed the sidelines.