Jeff Hurndon Photography
The Eagle's Landing Christian, the top-ranked team in Class A, bursts through a banner as it takes to the field in the Chargers' season-opener at home against Washington County on Friday. Washington County, the No. 5 team in Class AAA, escaped with a 24-19 victory.
Eagle’s Landing Christian was inches away from pulling off the first major upset of the new season.
When a fourth-down pass from Chargers quarterback Dalton Etheridge to Keyante Green was a little too low, it ended ELCA’s shot at knocking off Washington County on Friday in the season opener for both teams.
Washington County, the No. 5 team in Class AAA, escaped with a 24-19 win over top-ranked ELCA of Class A at Commitment Field.
“I just wish there were about 40 more seconds on the clock,” ELCA coach Jonathan Gess said. “I’m still proud of the way my guys played. It says a lot about our team to hang with a AAA school.”
Aside from three costly mistakes, ELCA just about out-played the powerhouse program. All but one of the Golden Hawks scores came as a result of a miscue from ELCA.
“Those three mistakes killed us,” Gess said.
“They are a AAA school and they are good,” ELCA junior wide receiver Davis Carrandi said. “We fought hard every second in the fourth quarter. We never gave up.”
The Chargers led once in the game when Keyante Green scored the first of his two touchdowns on a 3-yard run for a 6-3 lead with 9:43 remaining in the first half. However, the lead was short-lived as Golden Hawks running back Melvin Hill capped a 75-yard drive with a 37-yard run with 1:50 remaining in the second quarter for a 10-6 lead.
Washington County seemed to be in control of the game midway through the fourth quarter when quarterback William Walker scored on a 25-yard run for a 24-12 lead with 8:51 remaining.
The Golden Hawks had received the ball on ELCA’s 12-yard line after a bad snap on a punt attempt. A holding penalty on the first play of the drive pushed the ball back, but Walker made up for it with a run up the middle as he broke several tackles.
But ELCA answered the score on the ensuing drive when Green scored on a 10-yard run to close the gap to 24-19 with 5:51 remaining after a two-point conversion pass fell incomplete.
A huge sack by Chargers defensive tackle Andrew Williams on a third-down play would give them the ball one more time.
“I have to tip my hat to them. We had to pick and chose the things we did,” Washington County coach Joel Ingram said. “They did a great job in defending us. I’m proud of my kids for making the plays when they had to.”
ELCA got the ball on the Golden Hawks’ 42 with 3:23 remaining for a final drive. On the first play, the Chargers were penalized for holding, but were able to move the ball to the 12 in eight plays.
On fourth-and-seven from the 12, Etheridge’s pass was low to the ground as Green dived to make a catch, which was ruled incomplete.
“To come back from all our mistakes and be in a position to win it, that was great,” ELCA junior linebacker/fullback Josh Shockley said. “I’m very proud of my boys because we just kept fighting. We learned tonight to push ourselves and how to become warriors.”
The road doesn’t get any easier for the Chargers as they travel to Birmingham, Ala., next week to take on traditional Alabama powerhouse Briarwood Christian in a rematch of last season.
ELCA lost that game 21-18 at home to start the 2011 season.
After the Briarwood game, ELCA returns home to meet perennial playoff team Clinch County in a rematch of a 2010 Class A quarterfinals game won by Panthers.
“I’m definitely excited about our next game,” ELCA defensive end Isaac Rochell said. “We got to limit our mental mistakes. The effort was definitely there for us.”