4 Questions with ELCA head coach Jonathan Gess

December 8, 2017 - Atlanta, Ga: Eagle's Landing Christian head coach Jonathan Gess reacts to a touchdown in the first half during their game agianst Athens Academy in the Class A Private Championship at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Friday, December 8, 2017, in Atlanta. PHOTO / JASON GETZ
December 8, 2017 - Atlanta, Ga: Eagle's Landing Christian head coach Jonathan Gess reacts to a touchdown in the first half during their game agianst Athens Academy in the Class A Private Championship at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Friday, December 8, 2017, in Atlanta. PHOTO / JASON GETZ

Today’s interviewee is Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy coach Jonathan Gess, whose team won a state-record fifth consecutive state championship in 2019 when the Chargers took home the Class A Private title.

Jonathan Gess, ELCA head coach

1. Looking back on the 2019 season once more, what was the story on that team? “The 2019 team was an overachieving team. Yes, we had great players, but we were replacing nine players on our defense. Offensively we were replacing three-year starter Braydon Rush at quarterback and three offensive linemen. Then, in the playoffs I thought we had the hardest bracket we have ever had as we had to play Prince Avenue, Athens Academy and Holy Innocents'. I think those were the three best teams in Class A last year. As I look back on it, I feel making our way through that playoff bracket and then replacing that many starters and still coming out state champions made 2019 a special year.”

2. How will the team be different than in 2019? “On defense, we will not be as big, but we will be very fast and physical. On offense, we have more of a running quarterback that is similar to the quarterbacks we had in 2012-2015. We have a great running back in Josh Rogers returning. So you will see the same ELCA-type team: Great defense and very physical on offense. We also have kicker Alberto Sanchez returning, and we expect great things from him.”

3. What have been the challenges of getting a team prepared for the season amid the pandemic? “The challenges were the rules of engagement in working with our players kept changing. We read about what all these college and NFL teams are doing, but they have staffs of analysts and GA’s to make sure it all goes smooth. For high school coaches, when you add the extra rules it makes life very hard. For me, I just really had to change my perspective. In the past, you go to work with the urgency of winning. Now, it was more just be thankful I could have the kids working and taking ownership of all the necessary precautions to keep our kids healthy. When I get aggravated I tell myself, ‘At least we have them and get to work with them.’ I believe boys need leadership and someone challenging them to push themselves and be better men every day! It is a travesty in this country that our youth are not in school and in sports being challenged every day. No one seems to be putting a price tag on a child’s spiritual, emotional and social growth. It is very important.”

4. What are your expectations for the 2020 season? Is a full season with finals realistic? “You never know what the future holds. I think it would be a travesty if we take away football from these boys and sports from children. I think taking school away is dangerous in the growth of our youth. But I don’t make decisions in the world. All I can do is control what I control. Right now GHSA says we can play starting game one, so my team and I will get up and go to work every day to be the best we can be. All we can do is control the variables we can control and be at our best with those things we can control. I hope we start the season, and I hope we finish the season. I do not see why we cannot. But those decisions aren’t mine to make.”

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