By James Butler
MCDONOUGH Ga. – The Class A football playoffs get underway this Friday as the top 16-seeded private school teams and the top 16-seeded public schools begin their final journey toward their respective state titles.
Somehow the Class A Power Ratings, which determine the seeding of the region champions, has 2012 state champion Eagles Landing Christian Academy entering the playoffs as the No. 4 seed in the private school bracket.
Now, the Chargers finished the regular season with a record of 7-3, but those three losses were to Stockbridge (the No. 1-ranked team in Class AAAAA), Woodward Academy (the No. 1-ranked team in Class AAAA), and Greater Atlanta Christian (the No. 2-ranked team in Class AA).
ELCA lost to Stockbridge 28-21 and fell to Woodward 20-10. Only Alabama large classification state title contender Central of Phenix City has played the Tigers closer, and only the fifth-ranked team in Class AAAA, St. Pius X, played Woodward any closer. In fact the 21 points the Chargers scored against Stockbridge was the third most the Tigers have given up this season and the 20 points they held Woodward to are the lowest the War Eagles have been held to all year.
So, this begs the following question: If ELCA is the No. 4 seed in the Class A Private classification, then the three teams in front of them all must be virtually unbeatable right?
Well, not exactly.
As the Southern Crescent Buzz’s editor Gabriel Stovall witnessed firsthand, ELCA dismantled No. 1 seed Prince Avenue Christian this year in a preseason scrimmage. Prince Avenue is the lone undefeated team in Class A and they are coached by longtime Camden County head coach Jeff Herron.
Herron won three state titles at Camden and another at Oconee County, so the Wolverines should not be taken lightly. Nevertheless, coincidently — or probably not so coincidently considering the topic being discussed — it was Prince Avenue who ELCA defeated for its lone state title, though that was one season before Herron arrived. The final score in that game was 33-0.
Back to this season and the other teams seeded ahead of ELCA.
Those squads are No. 2 Pinecrest Academy and No. 3 Aquinas. Pinecrest’s only loss was to the reigning Class A Private state champion Mount Paran, while Aquinas’ only setback was a 30-point drubbing at the hands of Prince Avenue.
It was a dominant Mount Paran team, seeded fifth this season, who defeated ELCA in the 2014 state title game. ELCA finished the 2014 season with a record of 7-7 as two of the losses came at the hands of Mount Paran. The Chargers played a tough non-region schedule, almost identical to this season, suffering setbacks to Stockbridge, Woodward Academy and GACA. But unlike this season of close finishes, only the GACA game was decided within 10 points or less.
ELCA made its playoff run as a fifth seed in 2014, and in another “coincidence,” beat Prince Avenue by 30 points in a second round matchup. With Mount Paran losing key players like current Georgia Tech freshman Dorian Walker and ELCA returning a good nucleus, including senior quarterback D.J. Hammond, running backs Trevor Gear and Josh Mays and Region 5-A defensive player of the year LB Chase Burdette, if any team ought to be designated as the favorite to win a state title in the Class A title this season it is the Chargers.
The Class A Power Ratings take into consideration schools playing teams in higher classification, and it even takes into consideration the number of wins a team’s opponents have. Still, something is amiss.
While no thought process nor formula or system is perfect, sometimes the eyeball test and simple reasoning is best. Simply put, my eyeballs tell me ELCA is the team to beat amongst the Class A private schools.
James Butler is a staff writer for thecrescentbuzz.com. His primary coverage areas are Clayton and Fayette Counties. Got story ideas or feedback for James? Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter @JamesButlerJour.