“Really cold.”

That’s how Ezell-Harding Christian coach Dustin McGee described the Gatorade bath he received after winning the MTAC Championship Saturday night in Antioch. 

The Eagles dominated Christian Community School, finishing the season with a 58-22 victory to cap off their first season in eight-man football.

It only took two plays on the first drive for the Eagles to get on the board via a 56-yard scamper from quarterback Derek Griffin. The lead was 8-0 following a two-point conversion.

On the next drive, the Colts cut the lead to two points on a 65-yard touchdown pass from Micah Jones to Johnny Stapleton, but they were unable to convert the two-point attempt.

But the first quarter scoring was far from over.

During the next eight minutes, the Eagles offense scored 26 unanswered points on four touchdowns. Their nine offensive plays in that span accumulated 237 yards for an average of over 26 yards per play.

Ezell-Harding held a 50-6 lead at halftime, before scoring another touchdown in the third quarter, which capped off a barrage of 50 unanswered points.

Christian Community coach Jordan Flanders knew this would be a tough game.

“Unfortunately this year, we just didn’t have the team to match up,” coach Flanders said. “They did a great job.”

The Colts finished with a 6-5 record, but Flanders said he still sees much of the season as a success.

“We lost early to a Lancaster (Christian School) team that we were able to beat last week, so we were able to flip a little bit,” Flanders said. “I’m proud of our guys.

“Our goal was to get here. We probably should have made our goal to win it, but our goal was to get back here. And we did with these guys. We had a shot, and we just weren’t able to come up on top this time.

“Congrats to Ezell. They have a tremendous team, tremendous guys. I’ll be happy to see some of those seniors go though. Man, they’re tough to tackle.”

One of those seniors, quarterback Derek Griffin, was named MTAC Championship MVP for his performance.

Griffin ran for 261 yards on eight carries and went 2-for-2 through the air for 67 yards. He totaled five touchdowns on the night.

The senior leader took the humble approach after the game.

“I couldn’t have done this without all of my teammates,” Griffin said. “All of my teammates got me to this point. It all starts up front with my O-line. They open up the holes, and I just hit ‘em and go.”

Junior running back Kadarius Price added 133 rushing yards and two touchdowns of his own. He and Griffin joined fellow Eagle Alex Valbuena and Colts Avery Harper and Brooks Pugh as Stars of the MTAC Championship  as well as members of the All-Conference team.

The combination of Price and Griffin on the ground led the Eagles to this point, each rushing for over 1,500 yards on the season.

McGee said there is no secret to how they produce such big numbers.

“They’re just stud athletes,” coach McGee said. “That’s all it is. They’re both winners. They both compete so hard for each other and for this team. I mean, we wouldn’t be here without them.”

This is the first season Ezell-Harding has ever played in the eight-man league. The Eagles previously played in the TSSAA, where their only other state championship came in 2001.

McGee was familiar with the eight-man game from his time in Oregon before coming to Ezell-Harding last year. Due to the team’s lack of roster depth, McGee and school administration made the move to the MTAC this season.

“Low numbers is what caused us to move down,” McGee said. “It was the best thing for these kids, the best thing for our school. I’m just so happy it worked out in our favor.”

The championship puts a bow on a storybook first season.

“I’m just so happy for these kids, man,” McGee said. “They committed to a dream back in April. They worked so dang hard for this, and I’m just so happy to watch them celebrate.”

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