Region champions are guaranteed the higher seeds, leaving Mount Paran to be leapfrogged by three teams — Aquinas, Calvary Day and Prince Avenue Christian — that stood lower in the power ratings.
That left Mount Paran to fill the No. 6 spot in the Class A bracket as the highest-rated team not to win a region title.
“That’s kind of the incentive to win a region championship,” Mount Paran coach Mitch Jordan said.
As the No. 6 seed, the Eagles (8-2) will host No. 11 Our Lady of Mercy (5-5) when the playoffs begin next week.
It will be a familiar opponent for Mount Paran, which beat the Bobcats 36-7 in the season opener Aug. 30.
However, a lot has happened for both teams since then.
“We’ve just had a natural progression since Game 1,” Jordan said. “We’ve stayed relatively healthy, but I think we’ve improved in every area, and they definitely have.
“(Our Lady of Mercy) had a tough schedule, if not the toughest schedule, in the state this year.”
The Bobcats played six games against teams that finished in the top 10 of the power ratings, including No. 1 Eagle’s Landing Christian, the defending state champion and No. 2 Mount Pisgah Christian.
“They’re going to be as good as they come, and we know that,” Jordan added. “We’re going to have our work cut out for us.”
Jordan doesn’t expect this game to end anything like their initial meeting.
“For them, we had switched to a new offense and hadn’t shown a whole lot,” he said, “so they really didn’t know what to prepare for, and they had beaten us soundly last season. I think we just caught them off guard and by surprise a little bit in that first game. They made a lot of improvements from Game 1 to Game 2 and got back on track after that game.”
The teams have already traded game tapes to go along with the footage they have of one another from the season opener. The focus of the tapes will likely center on the defensive side of the ball.
“You want more recent tape because some things have probably changed since (the first meeting),” Jordan said. “Defensively, you see what they’ve been doing and you see the progression and changes they’ve made from the first game. I don’t think our offensive staff is going to look at what they do defensively because they’re going to do something totally different. They’ll have a good plan in place on both sides of the ball.”
Should Mount Paran get past Our Lady of Mercy, there won’t be any lack of competition the rest of the way.
Mount Paran sits in the lower half of the bracket — opposite from Eagle’s Landing Christian — and could ultimately advance to a semifinal against one of two opponents the Eagles are also familiar with — Landmark Christian or Region 6A champion Mount Pisgah Christian.
“There are a lot of good teams, 1 through 16,” Jordan said. “Just glancing at the bracket, I think we can play with anybody. We just want to take it one game at a time and try to win each week.
“Ultimately, you’re going to run into ELCA, so it’s good that they’re in the other bracket. I’ll just put it that way. To get (to the championship) is going to be a tough road each week.”