Game: Mount Paran Christian vs. Eagle’s Landing Christian, Saturday 10 a.m., in Columbus
Last meeting: ELCA 34, Mount Paran 14
All-time series: ELCA leads 1-0
Prediction: Mount Paran 28, ELCA 24
Mount Paran Christian wants to be a state championship caliber team, and beating Eagle’s Landing Christian Saturday in Columbus would go a long way toward that goal.
Eagle’s Landing Christian hasn’t had a losing record in the seven years Jonathan Gess has been the coach. The Charges have posted double-digits victories in each of the last four seasons and won a state championship in 2012.
Mount Paran and ELCA both went deep into the Class A private-school state playoffs, and both squads return a lot of talent into the 2014 campaign. The game is, argueably, among the best matchups in Georgia this weekend.
“Eagle’s Landing Christian has a long history of success,” Mount Paran coach Mitch Jordan said. “They lost a strong senior class, but they’re a team that reloads, so I’m sure they’ll be in the mix again for a state championship by the end of the year.”
Saturday’s contest marks the first game of the Battleground Kickoff Classic, which features three games at Memorial Stadium. The idea for the Classic came from Brookstone coach Brad Dehem.
“We had some home and away games against Brookstone the last couple of years, so I’ve developed a good relationship with Brad,” Jordan said. “They’re not a Christian school, but he reached out to some Christian programs to help create a faith-based event to start the season and make a whole weekend out of it.
“He called a few teams from around the state, and we accepted. There will be guest speakers, and the teams will have dinner together and be entertained. It should be a nice event.”
Mount Paran didn’t have a spring practice, and one of its two scrimmages was rained out. The Eagles were able to have a controlled scrimmage with Darlington Aug. 15, and Jordan believes it helped.
“We got done what we needed to,” he said. “We’re ahead of where we were the previous seasons.”
— By Carlton D. White
Game: Wesleyan at Walker, 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: Wesleyan 30, Walker 0
All-time series: Wesleyan leads 4-0
Prediction: Wesleyan 30, Walker 21
Walker ushers in a new era under new coach Matt Casper.
Two years removed a season that produced a school record 11 wins, Walker’s first region championship, and first state playoff victory in program history, Casper takes over a team that fell to 4-5 last year and lost its final three games.
The first-year coach and his Wolverines will have their hands full against a Wesleyan squad that has seen some lean years recently (6-16 over the past two seasons), but has been a strong team traditionally. Casper isn’t looking for anything fancy from his players, but he does expect the team to execute well in all phases.
“Our focus will be on the fundamentals,” he said. “We want to line up correctly, protect the football, play well on special teams, tackle well and move the football. We want to do the simple things well. If we can do that, we’ll have success (tonight).”
Casper spent seven seasons as an assistant coach at Lovett and held positions at Savannah Country Day and Ithaca College. He’ll integrate knowledge gained from many of his peers in establishing his program at Walker.
“This is my first head-coaching job, and I’ve learned you are who you are as a head coach and you take a little bit here and there from the coaches you’ve worked with over the years.
“It’s about having a philosophy to work with and setting the tone to make the team the best it can be by the end of the year.”
Wesleyan plays in the same region as Lovett, so Casper knows what the Wolves are capable of.
“Our team is excited,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to go against a tough opponent in our first home game. Wesleyan will pose quite a challenge, but I think we’ll be ready.”
— By Carlton D. White