He’s the man the Golden Aces turn to at this time of the year. Known as Swami, he’s the one with the best guess as to who Mount Carmel will draw in the upcoming IHSA football playoffs. Mike Mandrell, teacher and Aces freshman coach, has all the answers.
For starters, he said the Aces will land a spot in the post-season tournament, regardless of how they fare against Mount Vernon tonight in the regular-season finale. Even with a loss, a 5-4 Aces team would have enough playoff points to make the field, Mandrell said.
The Aces already know they’re heading down the road in the first-round. Even with a win and a 6-3 record, it won’t be good enough to land a home game in the opening round.
So, now on to Question No. 1: Which playoff class will the Aces end up in?
“It’s going to be like a few years ago (2009 to be exact) when we had to play Mahomet-Seymour and Rochester when we were the smallest Class 4A school,” Mandrell said. “It looks like we’re going to end up being the second or third smallest in 4A this year. It doesn’t look like the cards are in our favor this year, no pun intended.”
That year, the Aces defeated Mahomet-Seymour, 31-25, in a first-round game moved to the artificial turf at Evansville Central because of torrential rain in the days leading up to the game. Then, the Aces fell at Rochester, 42-14, to end an 8-3 season.
Mandrell said the move to 10-team “closed conferences” is skewing the playoff picture statewide, even more so than the Chicago Public League’s decision to only take two teams from the major conferences, regardless of record.
“A 5-4 team in a closed conference (like the Black Diamond Conference), where you play all nine of your games within your conference, is going to get in with 40 playoff points,” he said. “That’s probably made more of a change in how we do the playoffs than anything else in the last five years.”
Question No. 2: Who will the Aces play in the first round?
Mandrell said if the Aces wind up in Class 4A, “there is a very big possibility of playing the Olney Tigers [7-1], the old North Egypt Conference foe” which this year has qualified out of the Little Illini Conference Egyptian Division.
If that happens, it would be the second time Mount Carmel has played a former NEC opponent in the post-season. In 2010, the Aces defeated Fairfield, 56-12, in a first-round Class 3A game.
“Another team we have a chance to play (in 4A) is Alton Marquette [7-1],” Mandrell said.
If the Aces end up back in 3A, where they have played the last two years, they could draw Greenville in the first round.
Mandrell doesn’t see the Aces playing 5th-ranked Charleston (7-1) in the first round in 4A because the Trojans “have an unbelievably low number of playoff points.”
Though he is retiring as freshman football coach at the end of this year, Mandrell said he hopes to return in his role as Swami again next season.
The IHSA will first release the names of the 256 teams which qualify for the eight-class tourney, sorted in order of playoff points, on Saturday at 5:15 p.m. The pairings will be released just after 8:00 p.m., beginning with Class 1A. The Class 3A pairings are due at 8:28 p.m., and Class 4A at 8:38 p.m.