BY LOGAN BUTTS
Christ Presbyterian Academy’s Ryan Eledge and Noah Henderson have been playing football together for nearly a decade.
The prolific duo has led the CPA offense all season, thanks in large part to an on-field chemistry that has been years in the making.
“I can give him any signal we’ve ever used since we were in fourth grade, and he knows it,” Eledge said. “It’s so much easier because you can see what the [defense] is doing, and then I’ll give him a sign that we know from when we were kids.”
Eledge has passed for 1,693 yards and 21 touchdowns this season. Of his 21 touchdowns, currently the 12th-best mark in the state, Henderson has caught eight.
Henderson also ranks in the top-10 in Tennessee for both catches (57) and receiving yards (896) so far this season.
“It’s a big confidence booster,” Henderson said. “We trust each other. We know that we’ll both do our job, that he’ll get the ball where he needs to get it, and I’ll make the plays that I need to make on the ball.
“We started in flag football and have been playing ever since. There’s definitely a lot of chemistry. We’ve kind of got everything down, gotten our timing down for everything. It’s been really fun to play together.”
The upcoming TSSAA playoffs will most likely be the swan song for the long-time quarterback and wide receiver pairing.
CPA heads into Friday’s first-round matchup with the University School of Jackson (4-5) with an unblemished 10-0 record.
“They’re a really good opponent,” Eledge said. “They’ve won a couple of big games, and they’ve played everybody pretty tight. They’re well-coached. They don’t just go out there and mess around.”
However, after an appearance in the state championship game as freshmen, the Lions have bowed out in the semifinals of each of the last two state playoffs.
Three straight state final four appearances is nothing to scoff at, but for a team full of senior contributors, a state championship would be a great way to send off the group.
“I think the biggest thing is we just can’t underestimate anyone we go against,” Henderson said. “We just have to prepare like we never have before in practice and expect every game to be played like it’s the last game we’ll ever play.”
The Lions heavily lean on their strong senior class. Of the 57 touchdowns CPA has scored this year, 55 have been by seniors.
“Everybody is experienced,” Eledge said. “Everybody is a little more mature than when we were underclassmen.”
The ground game has especially been senior-laden as Clemson commit Kane Patterson has 10 rushing touchdowns, Sam West has nine, Andrew Madden has seven, Eledge added six on the ground, and Henderson even ran one in himself.
The top four CPA receivers? All seniors: Henderson, McNeill Stout, Bryce McCormick, and Brett Nabors.
“I think it’s a huge part of our team,” Henderson said. “Everyone’s playing their role. All 32 or 33 seniors have contributed, whether in practice or on the field.
“It’s definitely really fun to play with everyone, and we’ve got a really good brotherhood going. We’re wanting to finish strong together.”
For a pair of players who met in the fourth grade while playing flag football (“We did play against each other in flag once before we knew each other. I beat him,” – Eledge), the 2018 playoffs will provide one final chance to add to the already impressive run they have had as teammates.