JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – In its first ever GHSA playoff game last year, Mount Pisgah almost knocked off the top-seeded team in the state Class A private school bracket, losing 17-13 to Athens Academy.
The roles were reversed as the No. 2-seeded Patriots opened play in the 2013 playoffs at home last Friday night, Nov. 22, against Pacelli from Columbus.
The Patriots scored early and often against the outmatched Vikings, taking a 40-0 lead at halftime. Mount Pisgah came away with a 40-7 victory, advancing to the second round of the state playoffs. The Patriots will again play at home, taking on Holy Innocents, which tied for second in Region 5-A.
Mount Pisgah won Region 6-A and brings an 11-0 record into Friday’s game. Holy Innocents is 7-4, defeating Landmark Christian the last week of the regular season and in the first round of the playoffs.
Unlike the other five classifications, playoff teams in Class A are seeded from 1 to 16 regardless of region, resulting in some first round games matching teams from the same region.
That was the case for the Bears, who defeated a higher-seeded Landmark team 27-17 in the playoffs after a 29-28 victory in the regular season finale. Prior to those two wins, Holy Innocents was 5-4 on the season without a victory against a team with a winning record.
The Bears are 7-4 coming into Friday’s second round game, and are making their seventh straight playoff appearance. After advancing beyond the first round the first three times they made the playoffs, the Bears lost three straight playoff openers before last week’s win over Landmark.
The two teams were in the same region for four years from 2008-11, with Holy Innocents winning all four games.
Mount Pisgah has been tested just twice this season, edging Our Lady of Mercy 17-16 early and getting past Mount Paran 28-24 in the next-to-last game on the schedule. In both games, the patriots needed late rallies, kicking a winning field goal on the final play against OLM and scoring two touchdowns in the last five minutes to rally past Mount Paran.
The Patriots did not need a comeback to win their first GHSA playoff game, leading 19-0 after one quarter and 40-0 at the half.
After an early defensive stop, the Patriots put together an 11-play drive on their first possession, with Aaron Winchester passing 22 yards to Ben Miller for the touchdown.
The Patriots recovered a short kickoff and scored again, with Winchester and Miller teaming up again for a 15-yard score. A 52-yard scoring strike from Winchester to Browning Dunn rounded out the first quarter scoring.
Winchester scored on a 9-yard run in the second period and had scoring passes of 50 and 5 yards to Miller to make it 40-0 at the half.
Miller was on the receiving end of Winchester’s five touchdown passes, with the Patriots’ junior quarterback passing for 182 yards and having a hand in all six of the team’s touchdowns.
“Aaron had a great game,” Mount Pisgah coach Mike Forester said. “He has great vision for the field and is able to escape and find a receiver.
“We took advantage of the things that were given to us. They loaded the box against us. If you are going to load the box then we’ll throw deep.”
The Mount Pisgah defense also came through against the Vikings (6-5), forcing four first half turnovers and coming up with another fourth down stop.
Nicky Piccapietra, Oz Dixon and J.R. Cendoya all had first half interceptions, with John O’Connor recovering a Pacelli fumble in addition to his recovery of the short kickoff. Piccapietra led the Patriots with eight tackles, with Ian Ainsworth adding seven.
The Patriots also welcomed back defensive line standout Shingi Chigwere, who had six tackles after missing several games with an injury.
The winner of Friday’s game will play in the semifinals next week against the Aquinas-Mount Paran winner. The Patriots would be the home team if they advance.