Behind the four-touchdown performance of running back Keaton Mitchell, the No. 3-ranked Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy Chargers won a record fifth straight state championship on Friday, a 33-13 victory over No. 5 Wesleyan in the Class A Private championship at Georgia State Stadium.
ELCA (13-1) became the first GHSA team to win five straight titles, breaking a tie with West Rome (1982-85) and Buford (2007-10). ELCA’s graduating class finished with a 54-2 record and the team’s record over the last five seasons is 65-5.
“Five championships was never really a goal,” ELCA coach Jonathan Gess said. “But it’s awesome.”
Mitchell, who has committed to East Carolina, rushed 19 times for 189 yards and four touchdowns. He was helped by Josh Rogers, who gained 132 yards on nine carries, and quarterback Gabe Wright, who rushed for 113 yards on eight carries.
After being shut out and limited to 40 yards in the first half, ELCA went to a different philosophy and unleashed its quick-strike ability. The Chargers needed only 11 plays to score touchdowns on their first four possessions of the third quarter. The outcome was similar to last year’s title game, when ELCA trailed 10-0 at halftime before roasting Athens Academy 44-17.
“Wesleyan did a phenomenal job keeping us off the field and sustaining long drives and we really couldn’t figure out what they were doing,” Gess said. “We went in at halftime and made one or two adjustments. We started reading plays instead of just running them and that really opened things up and helped us out.”
ELCA scored on the second play of the half. Mitchell broke free for a 75-yard touchdown run.
ELCA’s Kaleb Anthony intercepted a pass to get the ball back to the offense and the Chargers scored on the next play, an 87-yard run by Rogers.
After forcing a punt, ELCA needed five plays to score its third touchdown, a 14-yard Mitchell run. The Chargers drove 78 yards in four plays to score again, this time on a 1-yard run by Mitchell, and took a 27-6 lead into the fourth quarter. Mitchell picked up his fourth touchdown with 5:05 remaining when he scored on a 26-yard run.
“The second half, we talked and we never stopped working,” Mitchell said.
Wesleyan (12-3) was led by quarterback J.C. French. He rushed 19 times for 64 yards and completed 16 of 33 passes for 221 yards and one touchdown. Micah Smith caught five passes for 65 yards and one touchdown.
Wesleyan led 6-0 at the half thanks to pair of Javy Martinez field goals, one from 27 yards out and one from 20. But the Wolves missed two golden opportunities to score touchdowns inside the red zone.
The most egregious mistake came on fourth-and-2 from the ELCA 9. But Wesleyan was flagged for an ineligible-receiver penalty, which negated a first-down completion and resulted in a change of possession because the infraction calls for a loss of down.
The Wolves had another chance at the end of the half, but the ELCA defense stopped them on three tries from the 1. A trick play on third down – a double reverse option pass – was properly covered and resulted in an incompletion, which forced Wesleyan to kick a field goal.
It was the second time ELCA defeated Wesleyan this season. The Chargers won 54-17 on Oct. 4.
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