The Mt. Carmel Golden Aces have drawn a first-time opponent in the upcoming IHSA Class 4A state football tournament.
And that’s just fine with Aces head coach Darren Peach.
“We’re playing someone different, someone we’re not familiar with, and they’re not familiar with us” said Peach, minutes after learning his Aces would play at Columbia (8-1) on Saturday in the first-round. “That’s always a good thing.”
The kickoff time and ticket information will be released today by school officials.
"This is definitely the fun time of year, where all of the hard work in the off-season and the success they’ve had during the season pays off,” Peach said.
Columbia comes in as the champion of the Cahokia Conference, of which it is the largest member. The Eagles decimated the field in league play, winning all six conference games by 36 or more points.
The Eagles only loss of the season came in the second week. Waterloo, one of only three teams with a winning record on the Columbia schedule, prevailed 21-14.
There are similarities between the two teams. Columbia runs a spread offense, similar to the Aces. On defense, the Eagles operate out of a three-man front line as well, though they prefer odd-stack alignments.
The Eagles average 44.2 points per game, while allowing a scant 8.8. The average winning point margin of 35.4 is the second largest in the Class 4A field of 32 teams, second to the 37.3 of Chicago VOISE Academy (8-1).
“They put up a lot of points offensively, and they play good defense also,” Peach said.
Columbia, which plays on an artificial turf field, has made 14 previous playoff appearances, the first coming in 1987. Six times they played in the Class 2A tourney, another six appearances have been in 3A, with the remaining two, including last year, in the larger 4A tourney.
Scott Horner is in his 12th year at the helm. His 2007 team advanced to the championship game of the Class 3A tourney, losing to Plano 32-7. The following year, Columbia made it the semifinals before losing to Du Quoin, 28-12.
Mount Carmel [6-3] is in the playoffs for the seventh straight year, and 34th time in the 38 year history of the IHSA tournament. The Aces are 3-0 all-time against teams from the Cahokia Conference, heaving defeated Dupo in 1981, Carlyle in 1996, and Freeburg in 1998.
Both teams are members of the “Huddle” video exchange system, used by a growing number of schools across the country. It is a system that allows coaches to exchange game videos online, instead of having to drive to a meeting site to do the swap.