What was a young Mount Paran squad expects to return the bulk of its team next year including running back Dorian Walker — who rushed for 239 yards and four touchdowns in the Eagles’ quarterfinal-round loss to Aquinas — and quarterback Jake Allen.
On the road, Mount Paran (9-3) came three points shy of Aquinas, the eventual private-school Class A champion. This year’s Eagles also finished the season with a No. 8 ranking in the Georgia Sports Writers Association poll.
It’s the first time Mount Paran has ended the season ranked since the football program began in 2008.
“I think that’s a great accomplishment for the kids, the school and the community,” said Mitch Jordan, Mount Paran’s coach and athletic director, of the team’s season-ending ranking. “I’m excited about where we finished, and the fact that Aquinas won a state championship shows that we can play with anyone in the state, and it raises our expectations.
“It gives them even more motivation and incentive to work harder this offseason.”
In Class AAAAAA, McEachern jumped back into the top 10, finishing the year at No. 4 after losing two of its final three regular-season games.
Freshman quarterback Bailey Hockman took the reins in the postseason after Ty Clemons hurt his ankle in the regular-season finale against Hillgrove, and he helped lead the Indians (13-2) to the state semifinals — their best postseason finish since making the state finals in 1998.
McEachern’s neighboring archrival, Hillgrove, finished the season at No. 5 following its state quarterfinal run that included a win at Camden County.
In the quarterfinals, the Hawks (11-2) had a 10-point fourth-quarter lead over eventual state runner-up North Gwinnett, but they couldn’t hold on to and had to settle for a 35-31 loss.
After winning the Region 4AAAAAA title, North Cobb (9-3) was unable to finish the season in the top 10 after suffering a 52-6 loss to Colquitt County at home in the second round.
Kell, which finished with an undefeated regular season record and the Region 7AAAAA title, ended its season ranked No. 4 after advancing all the way to the semifinals.
Like Mount Paran, Kell fell to the eventual champion of its classification, Creekside, in a lopsided quarterfinal loss.