A senior, Ironside entered his final season at Hillgrove knowing he was going to be the leader of the Hawks’ offense. By the end of the year, the 6-foot, 185-pound signal-caller didn’t disappoint. Ironside capped his final campaign collecting seven school records and leading Hillgrove to an 11-2 record and the quarterfinals of the Class AAAAAA state playoffs for the second time in four seasons.
For his outstanding season, Ironside is the 2013 Marietta Daily Journal/Cobb County Offensive Player of the Year.
“It’s a really great honor to me,” Ironside said. “It’s such a great award to get. There are so many talented players in the county that I’m really honored to have been chosen.”
Ironside set school single season records with 41 touchdowns, 2,515 passing yards and 187 completions. His seven touchdown passes in a 63-28 victory over Campbell was also a school record.
‘I didn’t expect my season to be as great as it came to be,” Ironside said. “I didn’t go into the season hoping to throw for 40 touchdowns and break school records. I just wanted to win region and hopefully make a state title run. But, all the other great things came along the way and made the experience a lot better. But, I wasn’t expecting all of that going into the season.”
Elijah’s father, Hillgrove coach Phil Ironside, taught his son well. Both of them understand that the younger Ironside’s exploits are not only a product of his talents, but also of the quality players surrounding him.
“I coach quarterbacks,” coach Ironside said, “so when your player plays at a high level, you’re always proud. But, when it’s your son, it makes it really special and really good.
“He and I both understand, it’s (the receivers and backs and offensive linemen) that help to make all these plays. They know that without each other they’re nothing. Elijah gets it. Those guys being good make him good.
“Elijah’s not the type player that goes and takes over a ball game. He’s just smart and steady and can get the ball out evenly. I think we had 14 kids catch a ball this year. Elijah’s spreading the ball around and getting it to people it needs to be. Becoming a very cerebral player and understanding the ball game and not letting it get too big for him were probably his strengths.”
The younger Ironside agreed with his father’s assessment.
“I always keep calm and have the same attitude no matter what the situation is.” Ironside said. “Whether we’re winning or losing, I just keep calm and focus and try to get the job done. I think that’s what I do best. I think my arm strength and decision-making are really good. It’s not perfect, but it’s up there.
“The offensive line had a big part to do with our success and my success. I think it was by far our best offensive line we’ve ever had at Hillgrove. Having all our wide outs show out this year and our great running backs we hand the ball off to – everyone played their roles really well this year.”
Ironside wasn’t able to finish his season on the field after suffering a concussion in the quarterfinal playoff game against North Gwinnett. Despite the setback, he had already set school career records with 70 touchdown passes, 4,475 passing yards and 315 completions. He was named the Region 4AAAAAA co-outstanding player of the year and was 22-3 overall as a starter.
“I hated (not finishing the game on the field),” Ironside said. “After I watched the film of when I went out, I couldn’t have been happier with how my teammates played. They fought to the end and put up 10 points without me in, just running made up plays from the sidelines with whoever went in at quarterback. It was good to see them go out that way, but I hated that I couldn’t finish it with them.”
Ironside has a scholarship offer from Dean College to continue his playing career. He’s also had interest from LaGrange, Hampton, Kennesaw State, Air Force, Tusculum, The Citadel and Mercer.
Playing for his dad and winning with his team were his most cherished memories from the season.
“It was really special to play for my dad,” Ironside said. “It was easily my most memorable year. Being around this group of most of my friends and having the great season we did is more memorable than any of the past years I’ve played on varsity. I’ll always remember this year because of everything we did and the records I broke.”