Class A Blog: New Divided Top 5 includes Marion County and Mt. Paran; Coachspeak with Mt. Paran’s Mitch Jordan

By S. Thomas Coleman
For the AJC

Time for the AJC/AJC.com Class A Blog Divided Top 5 after Week 5. For the first time in history, there is a tie in the rankings. The overall AJC/Georgia High School Football Daily ranking is in parenthesis. We’ll wait until after Week 7, when every team will have played half of its regular season games (five), to start linking to the GHSA’s Power Ranking site.

And check out our conversation with Mount Paran Christian School head coach Mitch Jordan, whose team is making believers out of its Class A foes.

PUBLIC

1. Seminole County (7). Seminole County (4-0) and its option attack rolled up 250 yards rushing en route to a 42-12 win over previously unbeaten Class AA Pelham (3-1). Seminole County will take this weekend off before its Region 1 opener, Oct. 4, on the road at Terrell County (2-2) in Dawson.

2. Johnson County (9). The Trojans (4-0) downed Savannah Country Day 26-6 last week. JoCo will test itself at No. 4 Savannah Christian (2-0-1) on Friday.

3. Irwin County (8). Irwin County remained unbeaten with a convincing 41-14 win over Wilkinson County (0-3) last week. Irwin County will take a week off before traveling to McRae for its Region 2 opener at Telfair County (3-1) on Oct. 4.

4. Marion County (NR). The Eagles (3-0) make the list for the first time this season after blitzing Miller County (1-3), 54-0, last week. Marion County will begin its Region 4 schedule Friday at Greenville (0-3).

5. Telfair County (NR). The Trojans (3-1) were upended at Class AAA Southeast Bulloch (2-0-1), 35-26, last week. Telfair County will begin play in Region 2 on Friday at Clinch County (1-3).

Another half dozen to watch: Charlton County (2-2), Gordon Lee (3-0), Hancock Central (2-1), No. 10 Lincoln County (1-2), Trion (3-1), Turner County (2-2).

PRIVATE

1. Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy (1). ELCA took the week off and will start its Region 5 schedule with a home game in McDonough against Holy Innocents (2-2) on Friday.

2. Aquinas (3). The Irish (2-0) blasted Class AA Josey 49-0 last week, and will travel to Jeffersonville on Friday for the Region 7 opener at Twiggs County.

3. Savannah Christian (4). The Raiders (2-0-1) downed winless Montgomery County (0-4) 23-7 last week and will host No. 9 Johnson County (4-0) on Friday.

4. Prince Avenue Christian (6). The Wolverines (3-1) dominated Glascock County (1-4) 55-6 last week. PAC will begin its Region 8 schedule at home on Friday when Athens Christian (2-2) comes to Bogart.

5. Landmark (2)/Mount Paran Christian (NR). In an historic move by the crack staff at Class A Blog Headquarters, there is a tie at No. 5. Landmark (4-0) took a break last week and will visit Mount Vernon Presbyterian (1-3) in the Region 5 opener for both teams on Friday. Mt. Paran (3-0) earned a spot by traveling north to Trion last week and thumping the Bulldogs 31-12. The Eagles will take a week off before they begin play in sub-Region 6B at home against King’s Ridge Christian (2-2).

Another half dozen to watch: George Walton Academy (2-1), Holy Innocents (2-2), Mount Pisgah (3-0), Pace Academy (3-1), St. Anne-Pacelli (3-0), Walker (3-1).

Coachspeak: Mount Paran Christian School’s Mitch Jordan

You would think that this summer must have been a grind for the players and coaches at Mount Paran Christian School, with the drastic improvement that has been made after a 3-7 season in 2012.

After all, the Eagles are 3-1, with the lone defeat coming two weeks ago to No. 2 Landmark Christian (4-0), in a game that ended 14-7 but could just as easily gone Mt. Paran’s way. Then the Eagles righted their ship last week with a decisive 31-12 win at previously unbeaten Trion (3-1).

So there must have been a lot of long, hot, grueling workouts over the summer to get this season’s results, right? Wrong.

While many coaches in all classifications subscribe to a summer full of “voluntary” weight training, seven-on-seven passing league games and tournaments, and endless film and grease board study sessions so that their teams may hit the ground running when practice starts in August, Jordan and his staff follow a different path. Though they are serious about hitting the weights, those voluntary sessions are just three days a week, along with any throwing or field work the players may want to do on their own.

“We’re firm believers in getting in the weight room and working hard there,” Jordan said. “But we don’t hit them over the head with football in June and July. Kids can get burned out on it by the time August rolls around. I’ve seen it happen too many times.

“Our goal is to get to pre-season camp in shape and go from there,” said Jordan, who has a number of players who compete on travel baseball teams or AAU basketball teams during the summer. “I think there tends to be a herd mentality with us as coaches sometimes. We think if others are doing it then we need to do it, too. I know a lot of teams are doing all those workouts and seven-on-seven leagues and tournaments, and if it works for them, fine. We just have a different approach here.”

Jordan said that approach includes encouraging players at Mt. Paran to compete in more than one sport instead of becoming specialists.

“At a Class A school you have to share athletes because of your numbers, and we preach that around here,” said Jordan, also the school’s athletic director. He will not hire a coach unless he/she shares in that philosophy. “That’s what is special about Class A athletics. The kids have more opportunities because the number of kids they are competing against for spots on the team and playing time is much smaller than at a bigger school.

“For those kids that are good enough to play on the [college] level, there’s plenty of time to concentrate on one sport,” Jordan said. “When you get to college your sport becomes almost like your job. Your time is consumed by it. You’re either in class, studying or working on your sport. High school is special.”

Jordan’s openness to developing multi-sport athletes at Mt. Paran is one of the reasons for the turnaround of the football team this season. Several student athletes who hadn’t played football since middle school, because they were concentrating on baseball or basketball, decided to rejoin the football program this season. The group is led by a group of juniors: slotback/WR Emoni Williams, twin defensive backs Graham and Reed Massey, and TE Jack Rowan.

“They’ve added an element of speed to the team this year,” Jordan said. “It’s a group of kids who are great athletes and great competitors. They’re a real joy to coach.”

Another ingredient in the improvement was the adoption of a new offense, the single wing, to replace the midline/triple option the Eagles ran last season.

“We were looking for something where we could get our athletes involved, and as a defensive guy preparing for the single wing was always difficult,” Jordan said. “So we did our research on some teams that run it, and went with it.”

Running the new offense is junior quarterback Jake Allen, who was the main recruiter in getting his former middle school teammates to come back to football. Allen took over the starting job midway through last season as a sophomore.

“This offense is better suited to his skills because it allows him to throw the ball more, which is his strength,” Jordan said. “He’s just a natural leader.”

Defensively, the Eagles are giving up just 13 points a game under the leadership of new defensive coordinator Travis Mozingo, who was at Class AAAAAA Lambert in Suwanee last season.

“He has come in and done a tremendous job of simplifying things, and the kids have really bought into it,” Jordan said. “Having him on board has really freed me up to do a lot of things.”

As Mt. Paran begins subregion play next week, the Eagles are a strong favorite to win the Region 6 crown and earn a home game in the first round of the Class A private school playoffs. And even better days could be on the horizon as Mt. Paran will return all but one starter next season.

“With kids this young they have a hard enough time focusing on the next day or even the next hour, let alone the end of this season,” Jordan said. “But we let them know the goals that are in front of us and they are big goals. But the key is taking things one game at a time.”

Now it’s your turn, Class A Blog heads. What say you? Until Thursday …

14 comments Add your comment

Eagles1

September 24th, 2013
6:38 pm

We love Mitch Jordan at MPCS!

tommy

September 25th, 2013
9:39 am

Love the approach to workouts. Shared view by few coaches (former coach speaking), and I believe a reason why some teams fade away in the end. As he mentioned, kids get burned out. Requiring 5 day a week summer workouts in draining on coaches. Can’t even imagine how teenage kids handle it

Swamp Lizard

September 25th, 2013
10:08 am

JUST MY TAKE ….. Landmark & Top 5 Public / Private

First let’s talk about Landmark. STC, you know I think a lot of you and value your opinion, but I have to disagree with you on Landmark @ #5. I’m sure you have your reasons, but here’s mine. With the body of work they have done, I feel they are a soild #2 team in Class A. They have beat four quality teams …. Calvary Day 2-2, Athens Christian 2-2, the best 0-3 team in Class A Wilkinson Co, and a very good Mt Paran team that’s 3-1. I know that there is a lot of football left to be played, but I’m going out on a limb here and say that Landmark & ELCA will be undefeated, ranked #1 & #2 ( state polls ) and play for the Region 5 Championship …. & game of the year in Class A …. the last game of the regular seaon. Now, with all that said, Landmark “might” not be the #2 team in the state … there are a lot of good Private teams out there.

Top 5 Public & Private ….
Again, this is just “my” opinion. But this is the year of the Private schools in Class A. I think you can come up with a Top 10 pretty easy on the Private side, but it’s hard to find 5 “quality” teams on the Public side. Other than Seminole Co and Irwin Co, there hasn’t been any impressive teams right now. I’m just not sold on Johnson Co right now, but they will have a chance to shine this Friday night against Sav Christian. I’m sure we will see Lincoln Co get better as the season goes on, and I’m sure we will see a team or two in Region 2 step up ( other than Irwin Co ). As I mention, I think 0-3 Wilkinson Co is good, I think 1-3 Clinch Co is good. It’s just my opinion that the better teams are on the Private side this year.
I’d like to get some takes from the fans that follow the Public side close. It’s still early and I do know there are still teams flying under the radar and teams that will continue to get better as the season goes along that will be “playoff” ready.

Eagles1

September 25th, 2013
10:33 am

tommy, don’t be fooled. They work very hard and we have a voluntary “farm strong” Friday. Mitch and his staff does a good job keeping the boys excited without overworking them. Almost all of them play travel baseball, basketball or LAX.

Swamp, I agree. I can not imagine there being more than one, maybe ELCA, team stronger than Landmark. We played them hard and but for a blown call that lead to a Landmark touchdown, had a chance to win. That said, they were the better team.

Swamp Lizard

September 25th, 2013
10:54 am

@ Eagles1 ….. I have to say that I was very impressed with the way Mt Paran bounced back after that Landmark game. Coming back the next week and beating a good Trion team says a lot about those players and coaches. I’ll have to check our schedule out ( off week ) and see if I can get up there and check y’all out ….. looking strong !! Wish the Eagles the best moving forward.

TCDAWG25

September 25th, 2013
1:22 pm

@Swamp Lizard my friend you put a 1-3 team and a 0-3 team as being good. But don’t forget about the defending state champs from Twin City.

LoveFridayFootball

September 25th, 2013
1:22 pm

Idk Swamp… I can’t see putting Landmark above Aquinas, Sav Christian, PAC, or GWA for that matter. I don’t believe Landmark is as good as last year. Time will tell I guess. Oh and if they don’t play their A game, Pace and HI could slip up on them.

mpceagle

September 25th, 2013
2:27 pm

They do work very hard, Coach Mozingo has been great for defense at MPC. The D-line has battled all year and is very very strong and quick.

Cold Hard Facts

September 25th, 2013
2:57 pm

@LoveFridayFootball……You are right. Landmark is not as talented as last year. They only have 5 seniors on this years team, only 10 juniors, 40 players overall that are small. But they got HEART, they are in shape, and they have the best coaching staff in the state! Every team they have played has been bigger in numbers, size, and talent. Some teams just have “it. Landmark has “it” I’m not saying they will win out this year but Landmark will definitely be in the hunt come playoff time. In 2011 they fought all the way to the dome, and last year, after starting 0-2, came one win short of going back to the dome. They consistantly put up winning teams every year. Don’t sell them short.

LoveFridayFootball

September 25th, 2013
3:43 pm

@CHF… Don’t think I’m selling them short. And my comments aren’t meant to put them down, just my opinion on where “I think” they rank. I’m sure landmark makes a deep run in the playoffs and could end up in the Dome. But I also feel there are a lot of teams that could fit that mold… I think the teams (private) ranked 2-6 or 7 could flip flop wins if they play each other. So, again my opinion..if your team is ranked 2nd or 6th, there’s not that much difference in those teams.

S. Thomas Coleman

September 25th, 2013
4:38 pm

Swamp:

Here’s my rationale … In terms of looking at who Landmark has beaten, the combined record of the teams (Calvary Day, Athens Christian, Wilkinson Count and Mt. Paran) is 7-8. Mt. Paran is the real deal, so that’s a great win there, no doubt. But I’m not sold on Calvary Day (2-2), Athens Christian (2-2), nor Wilkinson County (0-3). Calvary Day’s two wins came against Montgomery County (0-4) and Treutlen (2-2), who beat Savannah Country Day and Strong Rock — neither win is impressive. Athens Christian’s two wins were over Banks County (0-4) and Jackson County (1-3). Again, not impressive. Wilkinson County might be the best 0-3 team in Class A, but I think they lost too much from last season’s team. People don’t realize just how good David Whipple was at QB/DB for them.

And at the end of the day, I don’t think Landmark is better than the four teams above them in the Top 5. But, I could be wrong.

STC

At last

September 25th, 2013
9:22 pm

High school football can be unpredictable when it comes to teams like Landmark, but predictable when it comes to ELCA. Occasionally there are upsets at every level, college and pros. If we look at these two teams you will find that in the last two years and this season they are both 28-6 and 29-3 respectively. How do they do it year in and year out? Good athletes, great off season prep, multiple sports, great coaching, great character, how about accountability? Big or small, fast or strong are all great components to building great teams. 2011 Landmark runner up to Savannah Christian before the public private split…5 or 6 playoff games won on the road and blanking Sav Christ until the last 4 min of the game at the dome. ELCA almost perfect last year 2012 just utterly destroying the competition all the way through to the dome to a state title! What is so different about these teams? They grind it out with great coaching, great kids, and great heart. These two coaches need to do a clinic because they motivate kids to WIN. In the last three years these two teams have set the field on fire with resolve and determination. In 2011 ELCA lost to Landmark in a huge upset and Landmark lost to Prince Ave in 2012 which would have set up a rematch between ELCA and Landmark at the dome. Are there sure things…no (Aquinas and GWA…great fighters), but these two teams that share similar colors seem to have something in common…they both have coaches that know how to win when it counts. ELCA’s talented, fast, and well coached, Landmark’s hard hitting, scrappy, relentless, and well coached. Again we know in high school football anything can happen, but as a fan of single A football over the past several years it just does not seem possible if these two are on opposite sides of the brackets come playoff time that you could keep them out of the dome. December 2013 it maybe a showdown at the dome with one these juggernauts being undefeated and region champion and the other vying for a state title…but which one will it be? Don’t you love single A football!!

Swamp Lizard

September 26th, 2013
5:33 am

@ EVERYONE ….. I think everyone makes valid points and all had good takes. Can’t argue with anyone, well we could, but I see everyone’s take. The rankings ( polls ) can be looked at two ways …. One way, who’s the best team right now ( wins under the belt already ) ….. and Two, teams that haven’t played that big game and we really think they’re the best teams out there. On the Private side, there are about 6 or 7 really good teams that could make a run at the State Championship. I don’t think the gap between the #2 team on the Private side and the # 7 team is that big.
@ TCDAWG25 …. Hey my friend !! That was my bad on ECI, just totally overlooked mentioning them. How are things going with the team? I know you follow the Public side close …… give us your take on the Public side of things. ELCA played Clinch Co ( 1-3 ) this year and they are a scrappy team, much better team than their record. Look at the three teams Wilkinson Co has lost to …. very good 0-3 team.
@ STC ….. as always, very “valid” points. Moving into the region schedules now, things are starting to get exciting.
@ At Last …… I agree with you 100% on the ELCA and Landmark programs …. great take.

Cold Hard Facts

September 26th, 2013
8:44 am

@ At Last….Great comments. One thing I would like to add…Of the 6 Landmark losses…2 were losses to ELCA. One was a loss to ELCA in the 2011 season at Landmark. The other was the last regular season game last year at ELCA. Both losses were lop-sided victories for ELCA.
Of ELCA’s 3 losses in the last 2 years, one was by Landmark in a close playoff battle-winner going to the dome-which Landmark won 14-7. I agree with Swamp Lizard that both teams this year have a good chance of being undefeated when they face each other on the last game of the season.