Photo by Brian Paglia / ELCA’s defense had a little more trouble with Our Lady of Mercy the second time around, but the Chargers made enough plays to advance in the state playoffs.
MCDONOUGH — After cruising to wins the last nine games of the season, Eagle’s Landing Christian faced brief challenge from Our Lady of Mercy on Friday in the opening round of the Class A private school playoffs.
The scoreboard showed that the top-ranked Chargers won 42-14 over its Region 5-A foe, but ask any ELCA player and they will tell you it was much closer.
ELCA, which is seeded No. 2 in the playoffs, scored all but one of its touchdowns in the opening half and had to fight off a second-half rally by the Bearcats to advance.
“We needed the adversity,” ELCA senior D.J. Curl said. “We haven’t been challenged since Week One of the season. We needed a humbling and a rude awakening. We know there are no guarantees in the playoffs.”
ELCA could sense it would be a game after OLM’s running back Rashard Fant went 81 yards on the Bearcats second drive to tie the score at 7-7 with 10:17 remaining in the opening quarter. The Chargers would score 28 points to build a 35-7 lead going into the intermission.
“This was a good game for us,” ELCA coach Jonathan Gess said. “We didn’t play with a lot of emotion or fire out there. We turned the ball over because they didn’t stop us. Our Lady of Mercy is a good football team.”
The Chargers (10-1) scored on all but one of its five first half possessions and punted only once in the game.
But turnovers and mistakes played a hand in giving OLM some life in the second half.
The first three drives of the second half ended with an interception, fumble and a bad snap on a punt for the Chargers.
OLM linebacker Chauncey Laboo recovered a fumble at the Bearcats 49 to set up their second touchdown. Fant would cap the 10-play drive with an 11-yard scoring run with 10:48 remaining and the Chargers leading 35-14.
ELCA defensive back Marquis Griffin stopped another Bearcats scoring opportunity with an interception at the 1-yard line.
From there, Chargers running back Keyante Green would cap the 99-yard drive with a 1-yard scoring run to close the scoring at 42-14 with 2:57 remaining.
“I’m hoping that drive will carry over some motivation into next week,” said Green, who finished with 80 yards on eight carries.
Etheridge started at quarterback after missing the regular season finale against Landmark Christian two weeks ago with an ankle sprain. The junior accounted for 302 yards of offense, 177 on the ground.
However, he wasn’t happy about his two turnovers — an interception and fumble.
“I didn’t play well tonight,” Etheridge said. “My offensive line was outstanding. I get a chance to fix what I did wrong in practice this week.”