“It was unusual to say the least,” coach Mitch Jordan said.
After making the Class A state playoffs the two previous years, the Eagles struggled to a 3-7 finish in 2012. Though it did lose nine seniors from the 2011 team, Mount Paran had plenty of experience coming back.
But the strength of Eagles’ schedule in 2012, combined with injuries and frequent turnovers, made for a long season.
Mount Paran wrapped is spring practice period May 17 with a 7-on-7 game, in hopes of putting last season’s woes behind them.
“Last year was kind of a perfect storm in terms of things that can go wrong,” Jordan said. “We were careless with the ball at times, but at the same time, coaches put kids in bad situations. When the ball bounced our way, we beat the No. 1 seed from the other side (of the region).”
Mount Paran closed the season with a 35-14 upset of Mount Zion-Carroll, the top team from Region 6A’s western half.
As last year’s turnovers were addressed, Jordan said the offense yielded some good results this spring.
Quarterback Jake Allen, who started the second half of the season and threw for 505 yards and four touchdowns, had a solid spring and appears more comfortable under center.
One silver lining the Eagles will have this year is a healthy kicker in Dallas Kepler.
After not kicking last season because of injury, Kepler will be back to boost the special teams. According to Jordan, he’s close to 100 percent and is already getting looks from Mississippi, LSU, Arkansas and North Carolina State.
Newcomer Dorian Walker, a transfer from North Cobb, looked solid at the receiver position, and Mount Paran had plenty of rising sophomores who showed they had made strides from last fall.
Taylor Trammell has the potential to succeed his older brother, Kyle, at running back. The elder Trammell, who signed to compete at the Air Force Academy in the fall, was fourth in the county in with 1,194 yards on 183 carries. He scored seven touchdowns.
Linebacker and fullback Ethan Pugh was another of the upcoming sophomores highlighted by Jordan, as was tight end John Allen Knox. Linebacker Matthew Nord had an impressive spring after starting as a freshman, while defensive back and running back Garrett Harris and linebacker and offensive lineman Gunter LaPrad led the team in its strength training program.
“We got a lot of new players on both sides of the ball,” Jordan said. “Fortunately, for this year, we played a lot of young guys. Last year, we had a lot of key injuries to our upperclassmen and a lot of young guys came in and got experience.”