September 21, 2010 10:33:00 AM
Good habits are passed down in successful programs.
Whether it is on offense or on defense, players pick up tendencies and techniques from upperclassmen and learn to set a championship tempo.
Landon Ellis and Ben Williams are two of six seniors who are helping the Victory Christian football team continue its title tradition.
Ellis and Williams each had three touchdowns Friday in a 44-7 victory against Victory Baptist (Ala.). The victory helped Victory Christian (4-0), the two-time defending Christian Football Association champions, extend their winning streak to 26 games, dating back to the start of the 2008 season.
For their accomplishments, Ellis and Williams at The Dispatch''s Prep Players of the Week.
"They have been invaluable to our success," Victory Christian coach Chris Hamm said. "Ben had a good offensive game this past week, but he has really been showing his leadership on defense. Offensively, Landon has carried the load. He has had a real good defensive year (at cornerback) as well. He intercepted two passes against Tabernacle."
Williams rushed for 61 yards, scoring on runs of 12, 7, and 14. In Sunday''s edition, he was incorrectly credited with a touchdown that should have went to Kaleb Holliness. For the season, the fullback has 172 yards on 26 carries and five touchdowns. He also is fourth on the team with 20 solo tackles and three assisted tackles.
Ellis had 144 yards with touchdown runs of 40 and 12 yards. His 78-yard kick return for a touchdown to open the second half provided the spark that helped Victory Christian, which had been leading 14-7, pull away.
"I would say him taking that kick back was about 95 percent (of the reason why the team raised its level of play)," Williams said.
To his credit, Ellis praised the efforts of his teammates on the play for their blocking that paved his way to the end zone.
Teamwork like that has been an essential ingredient in the Eagles'' last two title runs. This season, things have come a little tougher, even though the team''s closest margin of victory has been 20 points. The loss of seniors like Daylan Hairston, C.J. Bell, and Parker Eaves has forced players like Ellis and Williams, who Hamm said aren''t the most vocal young men, to emerge as leaders.
So far, they have done their jobs to help Victory Christian to remain unbeaten.
"I think they have done a good job in leading," Hamm said. "All of these guys it is a new experience for. We have been fortunate the past few years to have a big group of seniors, and all of them were instrumental. We always had someone ahead of them, so they are having to grow into that and feel their way through."
Williams split repetitions last season with Hairston, who was one of the team''s go-to players. He also would play on defense.
This season, Williams is back at fullback and is filling in at defensive end while senior Hunter Johnson recovers from an injury. He likely will return to play some middle linebacker when Johnson is healthy.
Williams feels he, Ellis, and his classmates are stepping up, especially in the second half. He and the other seniors know they are expected to set the tone, so it is their responsibility to help the team snap out of lulls like the one it faced Friday night.
"We played horrible in the first half," Williams said, "Coach Hamm told us at halftime somebody has to step up and be a leader. He gave me the ball and I kept pumping and moved my feet until someone took me down. I came out and got pumped up after we played pitiful in the first half."
Ellis leads the team with 460 rushing yards on 35 carries. He also leads the team with 13 touchdowns. On defense, he is fifth with 12 solo and six assisted tackles. He also has two interceptions and a sack.
Despite the gaudy numbers, Ellis feels has plenty of room to improve. He said he wants to improve his conditioning, which is something the entire team will work on this week, an off week.
Come next week, Ellis and Williams said they want to make sure the Eagles come out more focused and ready to keep the streak going, knowing that it doesn''t define their success. Their goal is to get back to the FCA title game and to keep the title tradition alive.
"We have to step up and get (even more) serious," Ellis said. "We can''t think about the past or the future. We can''t get a big head or get complacent and keep working hard in practice."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
1. New Hope boys' basketball falls in Class 5A playoffs HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
2. Starkville boys denied return trip to Jackson HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
5. West Lowndes boys earn third straight trip to Jackson HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS