Photo by Derrick Mahone
Dalton Etheridge (left) and Keyante Green will help lead an Eagle’s Landing Christian offensive attack this season.
As Dalton Etheridge prepares for his first start as the varsity quarterback at Eagle’s Landing Christian this Friday, his emotions run from excitement to nervousness.
And for good reason.
Etheridge is in charge of a team with some very lofty expectations. The Chargers are a leading contender for the Class A private school title. And those expectations grew even bigger as the team enters the season ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press Preseason Poll, which was released on Tuesday afternoon.
“I’m pretty nervous, but I’m also very excited too,” Etheridge said. “I’m ready for the season to start.”
Last season, the junior rotated at quarterback with three-year starter Aaron Spratlin to give the Chargers’ spread offensive attack a change of pace. Spratlin was more of the passer, while the athletic Etheridge was more run-oriented.
Etheridge had 38 carries for 232 yards and five touchdowns while throwing for 100 yards and a touchdown on 3 of 8 completion. All those numbers are expected to go up with his first full season as the starter.
In anticipation of Etheridge starting, ELCA coach Jonathan Gess added some new wrinkles to the Chargers offense to showcase his talent.
“Dalton is very athletic,” said Chargers standout running back Keyante Green. “Most people don’t realize how fast he is.”
Gess said the team will mimic Oregon and Baylor’s offenses because of the talent that Etheridge brings to the team.
“We study a lot of film on those teams and wanted to build our offense kind of like that,” Gess said. “We think it is going to be an exciting year as we plan and build. We have changed some things up with the offense.”
Although running back John Tatum has graduated, Etheridge will still have standout Green in the backfield. Last season, Tatum rushed for 1,704 yards and 30 touchdowns to help lead the Chargers to the Class A semifinals.
Green, who is starting his fourth season at ELCA, rushed for 970 yards and 16 touchdowns on 115 carries despite an injury-shortened season. The Purdue commitment missed five games because of an injury last fall.
“It helps a lot when you have a running back like Key,” Etheridge said. “We can switch off, and either one of us can make a long run.”
This is Etheridge’s second season on the varsity. Prior to that, he has led the ELCA eighth- and ninth-grade teams to undefeated seasons.
He is also a shortstop on the school’s region championship baseball team.
Now, Etheridge begins a new chapter as the Chargers’ starting quarterback.
“I’m definitely excited about Friday,” he said.
ELCA at a glance
Last year: 12-2
Summer progress: New defensive coordinator Derek Christian spent the summer installing his new aggressive attack. “We are going to get after you,” Gess said. Christian took the job this spring after the same position with powerhouse Camden County. Gess said the team has gotten a good grasp on the new defensive style.
Work to do: Senior Jake Martin has moved from right guard to center. Gess said the biggest area he is looking for improvement throughout the season is the offensive line, which will have three new starters. College prospects Isaac Rochell and Andrew Williams will primarily play on the defensive side.
Emerging player: Although he was a starter on defense last season, senior D.J. Curl will play a lot on the offensive side of the ball at wide receiver. Gess said that Davis Carrandi has been impress at wide receiver since moving up from the JV.