A team few expected would reach the GHSA Class 1A private school semifinals likes to believe it has one or two more surprises ready to spring.
Tattnall Square, which went from 4-6 a year ago to 12-0 now under a first-year coaching staff, won’t have a bigger test to face this season than what it will deal with at 7:30 p.m. on Friday in McDonough: an unbeaten Eagle’s Landing Christian team that is the defending Class 1A private school champion and a winner of 20 straight games.
At stake will be a spot in the Georgia Dome opposite Prince Avenue Christian or Fellowship Christian for the title.
Few have come close to challenging ELCA during its undefeated run. Only two teams, Wesleyan and Class 6A Jonesboro, played the Chargers to within a touchdown during the regular season, and ELCA defeated Wesleyan 35-13 in last week’s quarterfinals.
Never miss a local story.
Further, only two teams, Wesleyan and Class 5A Eagle’s Landing, have scored 10 or more points on ELCA this season, with the Chargers scoring 45.4 points on average.
In other words, Tattnall is very much an underdog heading into this one. But as there were doubts about this team all season based on last year’s performance, the Trojans believe they have a couple of things working in their favor heading into this one.
“We’re not going to be scared of playing against them like everybody else has been,” Tattnall running back and defensive back Destin Mack said. “We just have come out and believe that we can win this game.”
While Tattnall and ELCA have never played each other, a meeting with ELCA in the semifinals will be a rerun for Tattnall head coach Chance Jones.
Last year, Jones was the offensive coordinator at Prince Avenue Christian, the team that hosted ELCA in last year’s semifinals. ELCA prevailed 35-14 in a game that was a seven-point contest early in the second half.
“They’re a tough team,” Jones said. “It’s good to to get to play them again. But you’ve got to play well to beat them, just like any other Final Four game. There’s four teams in it, and they’re all going to be good. You can’t beat them by just playing mediocre, you’ve got to be able to play well.”
Another consideration is that many of ELCA’s opponents this season utilized a spread offense. Tattnall runs and throws out of the wing-T, something that could throw an interesting wrinkle into this matchup.
While not a run-exclusive operation, Tattnall does pick up the majority of its yards on the ground. The Trojans had 281 rushing yards in a 28-14 win last week over Calvary Day, with Ahmad Barron going for 170 yards and two touchdowns.
“I think we have a good plan,” Tattnall receiver and defensive back Calvin Slaughter said. “Coach has a good game plan. Between him and (offensive line) Coach Way and Coach (Ronnie) Jones, I think we have a great game plan.”
Defensively, Tattnall is looking to guard against runs that bounce outside. Plays like the jet sweep have helped ELCA this season, Jones said, making outside containment vital.
ELCA ran for 351 yards in last week’s win over Wesleyan, with all five touchdowns coming on the ground. Trevor Gear ran for 176 yards and a touchdown.
“They like to unbalance you,” Jones said. “They like to run their powers, their counters and their jets. The quarterback will keep it off of any of them. It’s a lot of guys who can get the ball and hurt you.”