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.
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).
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 …