The Savannah Christian Raiders entered the playoffs as the No. 1 team in Class A while Landmark Christian was happy to be in after winning a play-in game. Now The War Eagles are looking to make history as the first No. 4 seed to win an outright state title. Landmark Christian is just the fourth No. 4 seed to ever make a championship game, and only Peachtree Ridge in 2006 has won a title, though that was a shared title. Savannah Christian meanwhile is seeking its first-ever GHSA title. The Raiders lost one year ago as a No. 4 seed to Clinch County in the title game after falling to Wilcox County in the 2009 finals. Donald Chumley is trying to finish off Savannah Christian’s first undefeated record since 1984 when the team was still competing in the GISA. Meanwhile Landmark Christian’s 12 wins this season are a program-record for victories in a year.
Savannah Christian (14-0)
The Savannah Christian Raiders have done this before. This will mark the third straight season that Donald Chumley’s Raiders have advanced to the Class A title game, but Savannah Christian is hoping that the third time is the charm and the team will win it all in 2011. The defense has carried the Raiders to this point, and the semifinal win was a prime example of just that as the Raiders defeated previously-unbeaten Prince Avenue 27-0. Chumley’s defense has given up just 28 points over the last six games, and DeAngelo Brown anchors the unit. The 6-foot-1 defensive tackle is a beast on the line, and he is joined by Josh Gay and Michael Burke in the 3-4 look. The team has posted six shutouts this season and gives up less than six points per contest. In the semifinal round, the defense stifled Prince Avenue to the tune of 37 yards rushing and no pass completions.
It isn’t all offense though with the Raiders as Will Austin, Chris Johnston and Nardo Govan help pace a powerful rushing attack. Johnston toted the rock 13 times from his fullback position while Austin racked up 75 yards. If those three aren’t enough, quarterback Johnathan Chamblee can carry it himself (10 carries, 60 yards, three touchdowns against Prince Avenue) or pass it when the situation arises. The offense has averaged 39 points this season, though the number has dipped slightly to 31 this postseason.
The trip to the Georgia Dome will be the first time in the postseason the Raiders will not play a game in Savannah. Savannah Christian opened the playoffs with a 37-0 win over Dooly County, followed by a 38-7 victory over Bowdon. The 22-14 win over Lincoln County was the smallest margin of victory for the Raiders all season, but the dominance returned in last week’s 27-0 win over Prince Avenue Christian.
Landmark Christian (12-2)
The Landmark Christian War Eagles have been in must-win mode for over a month, needing a victory over Wesleyan in a region play-in game just to punch a ticket to the postseason. Kenny Dallas’s squad has excelled though once in the playoffs, and now Landmark Christian has a shot to become the first No. 4 seed since Peachtree Ridge in 2006 to win a state championship. Along the way to the title game, Landmark Christian reached double digit wins for just the fourth time in program history. This will be the third region champion that Landmark Christian will face in the postseason after dispatching of Darlington in round one and ELCA in the semifinal round. The War Eagles also scored road victories over No. 3 seed Calvary Day and No. 2 seed Aquinas.
The Landmark Christian offense thrives when Cantrell Frazier is under center. Frazier ran for a pair of scores and 74 yards on 21 carries against ELCA one week ago after rushing for 71 against Aquinas. He also threw the game winner in the quarterfinal win. Frazier is joined in the backfield by Jeremiah Kirkland, who has rushed for 87 yards and 118 yards the last two weeks. Josh Nobles is a threat down the field.
Defensively, Landmark Christian has come together as a team and shined when the lights are the brightest. Last week the unit shut down Eagles Landing Christian to the tune of zero passing yards for the Chargers quarterbacks. The defense came away with four turnovers, none bigger than William Higbie’s interception late in the fourth quarter. Higbie is a linebacker and fronts a talented defensive secondary.
In addition to Frazier, Nobles and Kirland, the team is led by seniors Donald Payne and Chase McFarland and junior Cole Higbie, though Landmark Christian assistant coach Wayne Brantley believes the team’s greatest strength is its team concept.