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PREP FOOTBALL: ELCA linebacker Chase Burdette’s ‘warrior’ presence has shaped team into state championship caliber

Chase Burdette, right, wraps up on Stockbridge quarterback Malachi Brown during a narrow early season loss to the Class AAAAA power. (PHOTO: Jeff Hurndon Photography)

Chase Burdette, right, wraps up on Stockbridge quarterback Malachi Brown during a narrow early season loss to the Class AAAAA power. (PHOTO: Jeff Hurndon Photography)

Senior linebacker Chase Burdette (33) often has the task of riling up his teammates before they take the field each week. (PHOTO: Jeff Hurndon Photography)

Senior linebacker Chase Burdette (33) often has the task of riling up his teammates before they take the field each week. (PHOTO: Jeff Hurndon Photography)

By Gabriel Stovall

McDONOUGH, Ga. – Forget postseason superlatives, all county or all region rosters. Even push aside the highlight reels for a minute.

You want to know the worth and impact Chase Burdette has on Eagle’s Landing? Go to the trenches. Watch the sidelines. See how his teammates respond to his game time demeanor and disposition.

And see what his coach has to say about him.

“Oh man, Chase Burdette. You know what he is? He’s just a flat out warrior,” said ELCA coach Jonathan Gess. “He doesn’t talk a whole lot. He doesn’t say much. But he’s never rattled. You don’t know what that guy is thinking, but man can that sucker play.”

Then, as if to prove he wasn’t just talking coachspeak, Gess provided an example.

It was early in ELCA’s 35-14 Class A semifinal win over a Prince Avenue foe that’s been higher ranked than the Chargers (10-3, 4-0) all season. ELCA was riding high after getting over the Mount Paran – the school that thrashed ELCA in last year’s championship game — hump the week prior.

Perhaps senior quarterback D.J. Hammond may have been riding too high at first.

“They’d gotten ahead of us 7-0 early, and, you know, we had some wide receivers open, and D.J. was just missing them for whatever reason,” Gess said. “And you could see, maybe D.J.’s a little rattled. He walks by Chase, and Chase just looks at him and says, ‘We got it man. Don’t worry.’”

From there, Hammond and the offense got on track. Burdette and the defense became stalwart and the game turned into a route.

Just par for the course for the senior linebacker and ELCA’s leading tackler.

“With Chase, you know what you’re going to get,” Gess said. “He’s steady. He doesn’t get rattled. I mean, he’ll be playing in his third state championship game in four years, and really with the younger guys we have, a guy like Chase is kind of your rock and your confidence.”

And while Burdette said he’s grateful for the sentiments of his coach, he takes it in stride as just being his reasonable service to a team he’s grown to love like family.

“Those are mighty kind words coming from Coach,” Burdette said. “All I think about though, is trying to give 100 percent to my brothers every single play. It’s my job, and other seniors’ jobs to be excited and pumped up, but we have to also remain focused.”

That’s where the kind of encouragement like what Burdette gave his quarterback comes from.

“You know coach Gess is always telling us, ‘Win the day,’” Burdette said. “But sometimes it’s just about winning the next snap. Sometimes you’ll see guys like, ‘Oh man, we just gave up a touchdown on the last play. We’re gonna lose.’ But no. You can’t think that way. It’s winning the next snap and winning the snap after that. Who’s to say we won’t go back out there and shut them down and our offense put points on the board?

“That’s kind of what we did in that game.”

ELCA went on to roll 35-14 to set up a much anticipated state championship matchup with top-ranked Aquinas Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Georgia Dome.

The Georgia Dome turf – “the place where the Falcons play,” as Burdette puts it – has almost become a home away from home for the 6-foot, 220 pounder. But this time is going to be much different from the other two trips to the Dome.

“I think the feeling now is that I know it’s going to be my last time,” Burdette said. “And man, it’s just special. Because my ninth grade year, you know, winning the state championship it was awesome. But this time I get to lead my team and my brothers.”

And this time he’ll also have the chance to do what every athlete dreams of doing when closing out a chapter of their playing career – finish on top.

“I know I don’t get another chance to win a state championship,” Burdette said. “This is it. Whether we win or lose, I know that this will be the last time I put on an ELCA Chargers uniform. It’ll be the last time I’m out there representing my school.”

He said he’s going to try and take the time to take it all in.

“Sometimes when you’re younger, you don’t realize in the moment how special it is to have these chances,” he said. “I want to make sure I enjoy this moment.”

He’s a soft spoken guy, with a bit of an “aw shucks” personality. But don’t let that persona fool you into thinking he’s not a fierce competitor once the lights come on.

Friday’s game at Prince Avenue is a prime example, even beyond the moral support he provided his teammates. Burdette finished with 21 tackles, cementing his second straight season going well over 100 stops.

Because of his uncanny nose for the football, Burdette will most likely have opportunities to extend his career at the next level. He recently received a preferred walk on offer to Miami where long time Georgia coach Mark Richt was just hired. And there will probably be more offers to come as National Signing Day in February looms.

“I think it’s definitely a blessing to play at the next level,” he said. “I don’t know what the stats are, but I know less than 10 percent of high school guys play college football. It’s something that makes you strive to work even harder.”

But first thing’s first, and that is Aquinas on Saturday morning at the Dome, for one last chance to stand on the GHSA podium and hoist state championship hardware.

“Win or lose, I just want to be thankful to God for giving me the chance to play for such a winning program,” he said. “I know after the game, I’ll tell all my coaches I love them, and thank them for all they’ve done. I’ll hug the players and tell them I love him, and it’s been great to play with them.

“But, yes sir, I’m definitely hoping we’ll be able to cap this thing off with a win, no doubt.”