Conversation with ECI’s Chris Kearson, First Presbyterian and McIntosh County Academy stay at top of power ratings
Today we take our weekly look at the updated Georgia High School Association/MaxPreps Class A Power Ratings, and check in with Emanuel County Institute head coach Chris Kearson, who once again has the Bulldogs in the thick of the hunt for region and state championships.
ECI head coach Chris Kearson
Scoring points has never been a problem for ECI, but usually the Bulldogs do it with a punishing ground game. This season ECI (5-0), ranked No. 3 in the public poll, is averaging more than 50 points per game with an offense that has several weapons and more quick strike capability. Senior QB Rhett Gay has already thrown for 1,200 yards, 19 touchdowns and just one interception. The backfield tandem of sophomore Rock Regar and junior Bobby McNear have combined for more than 700 yards rushing, while receivers Dazhun Steele, a junior, and senior David Durden have more than 600 yards receiving and 15 touchdowns between them.
Kearson, in his sixth season as head coach, took time to reflect on his squad.
What has been the key thus far?
“It starts with our quarterback. Rhett is a senior and he’s off to a good start this season. We have really good balance, which is something we haven’t always had here. We’ve got six, seven or eight weapons we can go to. That makes us very hard to defend. We’ve put up some good numbers even though for the most part we haven’t played a full four-quarter game yet.”
Does that concern you? How will you keep the team sharp?
“That does concern me because you want your kids to get as much live action as possible. Also, we’re fortunate to have pretty good numbers, we don’t have anyone going both ways right now. But we still want to get some good work in, so at least once a week in practice we’ll have our ‘good-on-good’ session, where our starters go against each other. We make it fun and competitive and the kids really look forward to it.”
What do you think is the main reason for the points you have been putting up this far?
“I feel like I have two of the best offensive line coaches in the state on our staff [Chad Harper and Dwayne Tabor]. We’ve been here together for at least 15 years. They get our kids ready every week. They take our kids and our scheme and put the pieces to the puzzle together.”
In the past ECI has been known for its running game. This season you’ve added more of a passing element to the mix.
“We’re fortunate this year to have some guys on the outside that can go get it. They can hurt you. So we can be pretty diverse. We can run the football the way we always have, but we can also spread you out and go five wide. It doesn’t matter to me. We are scoring a lot quicker than we have in the past, which doesn’t give our defense a lot of time to rest. But we’re making that adjustment as well.”
Has the team used last year’s tough loss to Irwin County in the semifinals (19-15) as motivation?
“I think we have. That was a tough, tough loss last season. We only lost four seniors so we knew we had a lot of kids coming back that would have that bad taste in their mouths. The way we lost was really hard to take. We thought we had caught a touchdown pass on the last play of the game but the officials got together and said we didn’t get our foot down in the end zone, so the pass was ruled incomplete. We had to accept that decision. It was hard, but we accepted it. This summer we had the best participation we’ve ever had. We averaged 60 to 62 kids every day, so I know our kids are motivated.”
You had to play that semifinal game down the road at Swainsboro’s stadium. Did that have an impact?
“I think it did, a little. Take nothing away from Irwin County. They had a really good team and we had our chances to win. But we couldn’t play at our place because the week before it rained, just poured, and our field was really beat up. We couldn’t play on it so we moved the game to Swainsboro. They have a nice stadium, but at our place the fans are right there on top of you and our folks get loud. That’s how what we’re used to in the playoffs. We brought a great crowd to Swainsboro, but it just wasn’t the same as playing in Roundtree Stadium.”
But this season you have a new and improved field, largely because of what happened last season.
“Our old field didn’t have a drainage system at all, which is why it flooded so bad. There was so much displeasure because of what happened that our board spend a couple hundred thousand dollars to redo the field with a new drainage system, a 12-inch crown and new sod. It looks great, but next year after it has had time to really set, it’s going to look even better.”
What will need to happen in order for you to play a couple of playoff games on your new turf this season?
“Like everybody else, we have to stay healthy, and we have to stay sharp and do the little things right. The things that got us to this point, like not turning the ball over and not hurting ourselves with penalties. We have to coach our kids well and we’ve got to get some breaks. I don’t care who you are, to win a state championship you have to have the ball bounce your way a couple of times. If all of that happens, we have just as good a chance as anybody.”
FPD, MCA stay atop power ratings
The teams at the top of the Georgia High School Association/MaxPreps Class A Power Ratings remained the same this week as First Presbyterian Day and McIntosh County Academy held on to the No. 1 spots. Both will get pretty good tests this week as FPD travels to Twiggs County (3-1) on Friday, while MCA visits Savannah Christian (3-1) on Thursday.
Class A Private
|4||Prince Avenue Christian||8-A||5-0||14.70|
|8||Mt. Paran Christian||6-A||3-1||13.83|
|10||Eagle’s Landing Christian||5-A||5-0||13.40|
|13||Calvary Day School||3-A||4-0||12.75|
|13||George Walton Academy||8-A||3-1||12.75|
|15||Savannah Country Day||3-A||3-1||12.38|
|16||Hebron Christian Academy||8-A||3-1||12.25|
|18||Tattnall Square Academy||7-A||4-0||11.75|
|20||Mt. Pisgah Christian||6-A||3-1||11.00|
|22||Mount de Sales Academy||7-A||2-2||10.75|
Class A Public
|1||McIntosh County Academy||3-A||3-1||15.50|
|10||Mt. Zion, Carroll||6-A||4-0||12.50|
|17||Emanuel County Institute||3-A||5-0||11.40|