SANDY SPRINGS -- The run of upsets by Mount Paran Christian came to a halt Friday night as second-ranked Holy Innocents' rolled to a 28-0 win in Friday's Class A private-school state quarterfinal at Riverwood's Hoskyn Stadium.
After a four-game winning streak that included two playoff wins, the Eagles (7-5) finally found a mountain too steep to climb.
"We knew Holy Innocents' was going to be tough," Mount Paran coach Mitch Jordan said. "We got behind, and it's tough playing catch-up when they were going grind-it-out, but I'm so proud of these guys. They played hard. We had some opportunities to be in the game and it got away from us a little bit."
Holy Innocents' (12-0) scored once in each quarter and held the potent Mount Paran rushing attack to just 93 yards, and star quarterback Niko Vangarelli to just 40 yards on 21 carries.
Vangarelli, a senior, ended the season just 43 yards shy of eclipsing 2,000 rushing yards for the season. Holy Innocents' goaded Vangarelli into two interceptions and 33 yards on 3-of-12 passing.
"They fly around," Jordan said of the Golden Bears' defense. "They've done a good job of developing their guys up front, and they don't play a lot of guys both ways. You could tell they work hard against each other at practice, and that pays off. They hustle to the ball. Credit to them and their defensive coordinator. They did a good job of containing Niko."
Punter Parker Rostowsky, who finished the night with six kicks for an average of 43.2 yards, pinned Holy Innocents' inside their own 1-yard line midway through the second quarter, and field position appeared to be on the Eagles' side, down 7-0.
Holy Innocents' fullback Michael Cox had other ideas, rumbling 99 yards on the ensuing play, giving the Golden Bears a commanding 14-0 lead.
It proved to be a decisive play in the game.
"They ran inside veer, and we just didn't close," Jordan said. "We hadn't seen a lot of that in our film evaluation. They made a good call and we took a couple bad angles. Cox is a great player. I was like, 'They could pass it here, they could pitch it here,' but it was just a dive play, and you've got to close on the option."
Despite the loss, Jordan was upbeat upon reflecting back on the season.
Mount Paran started 3-4, but it rallied to defeat Pinecrest Academy and Trion to narrowly clinch a playoff bid. The Eagles then upset No. 10 Aquinas and No. 7 Darlington on the road, games that will last a lifetime in Mount Paran football lore.
"We had a tough stretch in the middle of the season," Jordan said. "We were fortunate to get in (the playoffs) at the end, and I felt like we were more talented than our record showed, but I'm just proud for (the seniors). They didn't listen to anybody. We went back to work each week, and we were just able to get in and make a nice run in the playoffs, and they deserve it. Those past two wins have been two moments I'll cherish on the road against two very good programs."
Senior Matthew Moore led Mount Paran in rushing with 53 yards on 11 carries. Cox led all rushers with 172 yards.
Holy Innocents' quarterback Matt Davis ran for 112 yards and a score, and he completed two of three passes for 62 yards and a touchdown -- a 55-yard pass to Landon Kardian in the first quarter. Jack Felton also scored for the Golden Bears on a 26-yard run early in the fourth quarter.
Holy Innocents', in the semifinals for the first time in its 14-year history, will host Eagle's Landing Christian next week.