As Christian Heritage School head football coach Jay Poag prepares his team to host George Walton Academy tonight at 7:30 in the second round of the Class A Private state playoffs, he sees a similar team to his own.
“They remind me a lot of us,” said Poag, whose team is 10-1, 3-0 Region 7-A Private. “They’ve got a quarterback that’s a freshman but doesn’t play like a freshman. They’ve got two running backs that can score every time they touch it. Just looking at their personnel, they sort of look like our kids.”
Freshman quarterback Gavin Hall is the counterpart to Lion sophomore Christian Thomas, while Jack Ellerbee and Jake Whitten each have had big seasons in the backfield for George Walton (8-2, 2-2 Region Region 8-A Private), much like the Gage Leonard and Solomon Locke duo for Christian Heritage.
The similarities don’t stop at the rosters.
The Lions reached the playoffs as the top seed in Region 7, and their only loss of the year came to Fellowship Christian, another contender for the Class A Private state championship. Monroe's George Walton lost two games, both region contests, but those came to two teams still in the playoffs too, including one game to Prince Avenue Christian and senior quarterback and Georgia-commit Brock Vandagriff.
“This is a very, very good football team,” Poag said of George Walton. “I think it will take our best effort of the year to beat them.”
If the Lions do win, they’ll advance to the quarterfinals.
The Lions have reached the quarterfinals once before — in 2015 — but the Class A Private playoffs only included 16 teams rather than 32, so Christian Heritage needed only a first-round win to reach the quarters. A win would mark the first time in the school’s nine-season football history that the Lions had two playoff wins in the same season.
Combine that with winning the school’s first region title this season, and this version of the Lions have already made a large impact in the school’s history books.
“It’s a special group of guys,” Poag said.
Poag says, even through those other firsts, the Lions still are focused on one ultimate goal.
“Coming into this year, our expectations were to go all the way from the very beginning,” Poag said. “We’ve checked a lot of boxes this year. We just keep rolling. We’re going to be disappointed if we don’t take that next step for sure.”
If the Lions do take that next step, they’ll get another home game in the quarterfinals on Dec. 11. They’ll play the winner of Calvary Day School and First Presbyterian Day School. First Presbyterian is a No. 1 seed like the Lions, but the Georgia High School Association’s universal coin toss determined that the top team on the bracket would host in round three.