Photo by Derrick Mahone
Eagle’s Landing Christian running backs Jevius Terry (No. 2) and Marquis Griffin (No. 7) talk on the sidelines during the fourth-ranked Chargers win over visiting Clinch County on Friday.
McDONOUGH — Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy knew it would have to bring its best game to be able to hang with perennial south Georgia power Clinch County.
The Chargers knew they would be without three of their standout players — Isaac Rochell, Keyante Green and D.J. Curl, all sidelined with injuries.
But what the Chargers probably didn’t know was how easily they would find victory. ELCA turned four Clinch County first-quarter turnovers into touchdowns on the way to a 47-20 victory.
“With four of our starters out on defense, we didn’t expect this at all,” coach Jonathan Gess said. “But I’m so very proud of how the kids played tonight.”
Thanks to plenty of Clinch County miscues, it didn’t take long for the No. 4-ranked Chargers to begin the rout.
Clinch County quarterback Kenyun Morehead picked up 3 yards on a zone read before fumbling on the first play of the game.
Four plays later, ELCA quarterback Dalton Ethridge scampered in from 5 yards to put the Chargers up 7-0 with 10:23 left in the first quarter.
ELCA’s opportunistic defense struck quickly again on the Panthers’ next possession, as a Morehead pass was tipped by ELCA’s Davis Reynolds and then intercepted by Jevius Terry, who returned it to the 1.
From there, Cameron Stewart burst through for a 1-yard touchdown to put ELCA up 14-0.
On the ensuing kickoff, Clinch County’s Dondre Lacy coughed it up on the return and the Chargers recovered. Ethridge went to work, hitting Davis Carrandi on a 13-yard pass and then a 15-yard connection. That set up Andreus Holley to score on a 3-yard touchdown run, increasing the lead to 21-0 with 5:48 left in the opening quarter.
Clinch County would go three and out on its next offensive possession, which set the stage for Ethridge to hit Carrandi on a 42-yard touchdown pass. Carrandi completely shook the defensive back on a double move and streaked down the sideline uncovered.
Two possessions later, it would be the ELCA defense’s turn to find the end zone. Chargers linebacker Josh Shockley blitzed through the line and hit a Clinch County running back, which jarred the ball loose. Shockley then scooped the ball up and ran 15 yards for a touchdown to put ELCA on top 35-0 with 11:14 left before halftime.
The junior linebacker finished with seven tackles, two for losses, along with the fumble recovery and score. His strong play is something that Gess said is starting to become commonplace. In fact, Gess had just one word to sum up his performance on Friday.
“Unbelievable,” he said. “He’s a warrior, an absolute beast. He is just the ultimate high school football player.”
Isaac Barber would add a 30-yard field goal for ELCA. A safety after a Clinch County high snap on a punt gave ELCA a 40-0 lead at the half.
The Chargers’ domination without Green, Rochell and Curl was encouraging to Gess.
“We just wanted to take advantage of their mistakes,” he said. “They had some turnovers and interceptions and we just tried to capitalize off of them.”
Shockley said his team’s performance showed what the Chargers are made of.
“The way we came out tonight, it says a lot about who we are,” Shockley said. “It says a lot about our work ethic and that, no matter who we put in there, we’re going to work to get better.”
Gess echoed his linebacker’s sentiments.
“All of our kids expect to win,” he said. “We have a saying and it’s ‘next man up.’ When one is out, it’s an opportunity for everybody else to step up.”
The Chargers did it both running and passing, as Ethridge finished the night going 7 of 10 for 153 yards and two touchdowns. Six of those completions went to Carrandi, who had 103 yards receiving to go along with his touchdown catch.
Clinch County moved the ball better against ELCA’s second-team defense in the second half, but still only managed 115 total yards of offense. The Panthers scored all 20 of their points against ELCA’s reserves.
But despite the Chargers’ dominance, Gess said he wants to make sure that his team does not rest on its laurels.
“We’ll be in on Monday at 6 a.m., looking at film,” he said. “I’m sure there are all types of mistakes. We don’t worry about Friday nights. We just worry about winning the day, winning the next practice and getting better.”
With the win, ELCA raises its record to 2-1 as it prepares to play at Hapeville Charter next week.