Photo by Derrick Mahone
Senior running back/linebacker Keyante Green, who has committed to Purdue, will lead top-ranked Eagle's Landing Christian against visiting Washington County, the No. 5 team in Class AAA, tonight at Commitment Field.
Washington County at ELCA
Where: Commitment Field, McDonough
When, time: Today, 7:30 p.m.
Records, rankings: This is the first game for both teams. Washington County is No. 5 in Class AAA; ELCA is No. 1 in Class A.
Last meeting: This is the first meeting
Scouting report: This game will feature several players that made the Georgia High School Football Daily’s preseason all-state team including QB William Walker (Washington Co.), OL Michael Selby (Washington Co.) P J.W. May (Washington Co.) , LB Josh Shockley (ELCA), LB Keyante Green (ELCA), DB D.J. Curl (ELCA) and OL Isaac Rochell (ELCA). Walker might be limited in what he does because of an ankle injury sustained in last week’s scrimmage against Dublin. Washington County lost 26-17 to Stockbridge in the first round of the playoffs last season.
No one could ever accuse Eagle’s Landing Christian coach Jonathan Gess of running from competition.
The top-ranked Chargers first three non-region games are against ranked teams, including two in higher classifications.
“Our players, I like them to compete against bigger competition,” Gess said.
ELCA, the top-ranked team in the Associated Press’ Class A poll, host Class AAA Washington County tonight. The Golden Hawks, who are in Region 3-AAA, are ranked No. 5 in the state.
“I’m excited about the season starting,” said Dalton Etheridge, who will start at quarterback this fall for the Chargers.
“It’s my senior year, so I’m ready to get the season started,” said running back/linebacker Keyante Green, who is closing in on 5,000 career rushing yards at the school.
Washington County has made the playoffs 20 times in the last 21 seasons, but was knocked out in the first round for the second consecutive year last season.
This game starts a journey for ELCA that many feel will lead to a state championship.
Following its game against Washington County, ELCA travels to Birmingham, Ala., to take on traditional powerhouse Briarwood Christian before returning home on Sept. 7 to host Clinch County, a perennial Class A playoff team.
But for now, the Chargers are focused on Washington County, which won three state titles in the 1990s and produced several college and NFL players.
“That’s why we wanted to play them, because they have such a great program,” Gess said.
This will be the first time under the lights for ELCA’s revamped defense under first-year coordinator Derek Christian, who coached previously at South Georgia power Camden County.
The Chargers will have their hands full against a Washington County offense that is lead by preseason all-state player William Walker. Last season, the senior quarterback passed for 1,517 yards and 16 touchdowns while rushing for 932 yards and eight more scores.
According to the Macon Telegraph, Walker injured his ankle during the team’s scrimmage last week against Dublin and might be limited tonight.
The Golden Hawks backup quarterback A.J. Gray is also the team’s starting safety. If he gets the start, coach Joel Ingram might not allow him to play defense.
“I know what’s at stake, and we want to treat every game like it’s a playoff game,” Ingram told the Telegraph. “But we don’t want to risk injuring him worse and losing him for four or give games during the playoff stretch. We’ll make a decision probably Friday.”
Gess also wants to win the game, but realizes the big picture for his team is when it faces other Class A competition. He said playing the big competition will prepare his team for what’s ahead down the road when they get into region play and the playoffs.
“We view it like another scrimmage,” Gess said. “Not that we don’t want to win, but win or lose, we’re going to get better from it. I think we will really see a lot of progress in our team in games five and six.”