The Chargers shook off a sluggish first half to rout Prince Avenue Christian, 33-0, for the GHSA state Class A-Private football championship at the Georgia Dome on Dec. 14.
“I’m proud of the way our team played … these guys deserve this,” said Chargers coach Jonathan Gess post-game.
For ELCA two-platoon lineman Isaac Rochelle, the win purged the bitter memories of the postseason disappointments of the past two years.
“All of us, except for a couple guys, have been together for four years,” said Rochelle, who’s committed to Notre Dame. “It’s just been a four-year grind … just shows that if you work hard and do all the right things, good things will happen.”
Rochelle was among the leaders of a Chargers defense that disrupted and dominated a Prince Avenue offensive unit previously accustomed to scoring points in bunches.
ELCA’s blue chip running back Keyante Green rushed for a championship game-high 84 yards and two bruising touchdowns, including the first score of the game — a 23-yard scamper on the Chargers’ first drive, with 8:31 left to play in the first quarter.
Green, a Purdue commitment, took the pitch from quarterback Dalton Etheridge, bowled over a Prince Avenue defender at the line of scrimmage and stiff-armed another en route to pay dirt.
“I wanted our team to score points, to make history … I just wanted to do everything possible to help our team win this game,” Green would say later.
Green also later recorded a sack from his middle linebacker position.
ELCA found themselves up only 7-0 at halftime, after having squandered multiple drives deep into Wolverines territory.
“We left some points on the board — we shot our own selves down,” said Gess. “We just weren’t finishing.”
The Wolverines’ first half offensive coaching strategy to drain time off the clock also factored into ELCA’s own high-octane offense underperforming. But, as their other 2012 opponents came to learn, Prince Avenue could only keep the Chargers from lighting up the scoreboard for so long.
DJ Curl put ELCA up by two scores with an impressive touchdown run of his own, accounting for a one-play drive, to start the third quarter.
Matthew East and Green each added a rushing touchdown later in the third; Etheridge capped off the scoring with one of his own early in the fourth quarter.
“All year long, we felt like we could be that strong team, that well-conditioned team that wears people down in the third and fourth quarters,” Gess said.