ELCA 34, Wesleyan 31
This one lived up to the hype.
Class A private No. 1 Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy, the defending state champions, held off No. 2 Wesleyan, which advanced to the second round of the Class AA playoffs last season, 34-31, at Wesleyan’s Henderson Stadium.
Both came into the contest undefeated, sitting atop Region 5. Both were averaging more than 40 points per game. But in a contest in which the teams combined for 65 points, ELCA’s defense, which surrendered the most points since a 33-3 loss to Class AA Greater Atlanta Christian a little over a year ago, stood tall when it had to while Wesleyan’s defense came up just short.
The Chargers (5-0, 3-0 in Region 5) had pitched three consecutive shutouts prior to Friday night, and ELCA defenders Caleb Dallas, Xavier Langston, George Shockley and Johnathan Youngblood harassed Wesleyan quarterback Banks Ramsey all night, sacking him six times. Still, ELCA needed a big stop in the fourth quarter to salt the game away.
Leading 27-24, with a little more than five minutes left in the game, ELCA failed to mount a drive to add to its lead. The Chargers punted and Wesleyan took over on its 20-yard line. But on the second play of the drive, Youngblood made a leaping interception over the middle and returned the ball to the Wesleyan 15-yard line. Ramsey was trying to find receiver Harrison Cook, who had vexed the Chargers’ secondary all night, particularly in the middle of the field.
ELCA capitalized on the turnover when sophomore quarterback Brayden Rush faked a zone read run to his right, pivoted and rolled to his left and fired a dart to Scott Queen in the back of the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown that pushed the Charger lead to 34-24 with four minutes left.
But Ramsey led the Wolves on a 13-play, 80-yard drive, which culminated with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Grant Frerking, to close to gap to 34-27 with a little more than two minutes to play.
ELCA recovered the ensuing onside kick at its 45-yard line and needed one first down to put the game away. Wesleyan caught a break when sophomore wing back Justin Menard slipped while trying to cut upfield on a jet sweep, which forced the Chargers into third-and-10 from their 45-yard line with about a minute left. But the Wolves defense couldn’t get the ball back to its offense as Josh Mays – who had an 80-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the first quarter and a 5-yard scoring run in the third, barreled up the middle for nine yards and on fourth-and-one, Rush leaped forward for two yards and a first down, effectively ending the game.
ELCA 7 13 7 7 34
Wesleyan 10 7 7 7 31
W – Banks Ramsey 3 run (Mateo Rengifo kick)
E – Josh Mays 80 KO return (Alex Usry kick)
W – Rengifo 23 fg
E – Usry 25 fg
E – Scott Queen 63 pass from Brayden Rush (Usry kick)
E – Usry 37 fg
W – Grant Frerking 13 pass from Ramsey (Rengifo kick)
E – Josh Mays 5 run (Usry kick)
W – Ramsey 1 run (Rengifo kick)
E – Queen 13 pass from Rush (Usry kick)
W – Frerking 3 pass from Ramsey (Rengifo kick)