A-Private: Aquinas vs. ELCA (Preview)

Class A-Private

Georgia Dome

Saturday, Dec. 12 | 10 AM




The Fightin’ Irish enter the state championship game with a record of 12-1 and have not tasted defeat since August. Head coach James Leonard is looking to repeat the success he found in 2013 as he helped bring home a state championship for Aquinas for the first time in school history. The path to the Dome for Aquinas started off easy with a 42-7 win over Brookstone in the first round as quarterback Liam Welch found pay dirt four times on the night. The second round would be a dogfight as the Fightin’ Irish held off Christian Heritage, who missed a field goal as time expired, 28-27. Running back D’Angelo Durham would star for Aquinas on the night finishing with three touchdowns on the ground. In the semifinals the Fightin’ Irish were in another game that featured plenty of punch against Stratford Academy. After leading 28-14 with 6:37 remaining in the fourth quarter Stratford would score on a short touchdown run to cut the lead in half, an onside kick and 23-yard touchdown would put the pressure on Aquinas. They responded with a Liam Welch touchdown pass to brother George Welch, the second touchdown connection for the brothers on the night, to take back the lead. The Fightin’ Irish defense would step up late in the game as they stopped Stratford on fourth-and-goal with 12 seconds left to secure the win. Aquinas brings plenty of firepower to the table as quarterback Liam Welch has totaled 29 touchdowns on the season including 18 in the air to just two interceptions. His primary receivers George Welch and Justin Gibbs have combined to catch 13 touchdowns this season. While the passing game has had plenty of success the Fightin’ Irish use an effective run game as well behind Durham who has 17 touchdowns and well over 1,000 yards and Chris Gates who has found the end zone 13 times on the ground this season.

Eagle’s Landing Christian

The Chargers are on a redemption tour back to the Class-A Private State Championship Game. After falling in the finals last year and losing in overtime in the Final Four in 2013 the Chargers are looking for nothing less than a second state title in school history after winning just three years ago in 2012. The road to the Georgia Dome for ELCA has not been as treacherous in postseason, but the Chargers took their lumps in to start the regular season with their annual gauntlet of early powerhouse opponents. ELCA started the season 3-3 with losses at the hands of Stockbridge, Greater Atlanta Christian, and Woodward Academy. All three opponents were in higher classifications including both Stockbridge and Woodward Academy, a Class AAAA semifinalist. In the seven games since the late September loss to Woodward, the Chargers have averaged 46.4 points per game, with seven straight victories. The road to another state championship appearance started against Mount Pisgah Christian in a first round drubbing as ELCA won 45-7. Running back Trevor Gear scored three touchdowns in a game the Chargers led 35-0 at halftime. Their second round game would be a rematch of the 2014 Class-A Private state championship game against Mount Paran Christian, a game the Chargers lost 49-7. This year the result would be much different as ELCA won 31-7 behind a big game performance from wide receiver Cam Meritt who finished the game with five catches for 135 yards. In the semifinals ELCA would face Prince Avenue Christian and their high-flying offense, however the Charger defense would be up for the task. The defense allowed only 14 points, as ELCA would win 35-14. Quarterback Donald Hammond scored four touchdowns on the night including three on the ground. The Chargers have had plenty of recent success in the past five years reaching the semifinals all five seasons and the state championship three times including this season. They will look to bring home the second football state title in school history to McDonough.


The Matchup

The Class-A Private State Championship will feature plenty of offense in a game that could come down to one defensive stop or forced turnover. Aquinas comes into the game averaging 38.5 points per game, including putting up over 40 points in seven contests this season. On the other side ELCA has averaged over 46 points on its current seven game winning streak, while only allowing nine points to their opponents. Aquinas is led by a balanced offense that features quarterback Liam Welch, who already has one state championship under his belt, a 2013 State Championship win over Calvary Day 27-7. Welch has thrown for nearly 2,000 yards, while scoring 29 total touchdowns. ELCA will look for cornerback Tre Douglas to lead the passing defense against Aquinas.

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