4 Questions with Mount Pisgah Christian head coach Ryan Livesey

Today’s interviewee is Mount Pisgah Christian coach Ryan Livesey, whose team defeated No. 6 Darlington 26-20 in the Class A Division I second round. Mount Pisgah, a private school in Johns Creek, won as a 24-point underdog to reach the quarterfinals for the first time since 2014. The Patriots are playing at Irwin County on Friday.

1. What did you do well that led to beating Darlington? “The big thing was that our defense played unbelievable. Our defensive coordinator, coach [Elijer] Martinez, has done a tremendous job this season. We’ve had guys in and out of the lineup, and with all the moving pieces he’s had to play with, he’s come up with a good game plan each week. Our goal was to make them do something they’re not as comfortable doing. They had a giant line of scrimmage and a great back, and we knew they wanted to run the football, and if we could get them out of that a little bit, we felt it gave us a chance. Offensively, they did a good job in the first half mixing up coverages and giving us looks that we were not prepared for. In the second half, we made some adjustments and took advantage of some things they were doing. We’re not a big-strike offense, but Makael Carter had an unbelievable game. One of the dangers of going man on man is if you can make one man miss, you’ve got a chance. He got away from them several times.” [Carter had eight receptions for 266 yards and three touchdowns.]

2. Your quarterback, Jack Cendoya, has thrown for 3,343 yards and rushed for 743. Carter has 1,410 receiving yards. What makes your QB-WR combo so strong? “We have another wide receiver who’s just under 1,000 yards, Tyler Hunnicutt. Jack, Makael and Tyler have been playing together since elementary school. A lot of these seniors were pressed into action as ninth-graders because of injury. Every year they’ve gotten a little better. Makael has got speed, hands and toughness, and if you focus on him, Tyler has the same combination. Jack, on any given play, he gives us a chance. He’s a great runner, but when he’s scrambling, he’s usually looking to throw. If somebody is coming off his man to get him, that usually leaves somebody open, and Jack has done a great job locating those guys.”

3. How do you feel about the public-private “reunion” this season, with Class A public and private schools playing for the same championships again? “I was coaching back when public and private were together [before 2012]. It was the same thing. You had majority-public-school regions and majority private-school regions, and then you saw these different teams in the playoffs. It’s great for public- and private-school kids to travel around the state and see different venues and places and environments. I’m excited that everyone is back together. The GHSA gets grief no matter what they do, but the system they’ve set up is probably the most equitable. This is my first time as a coach playing Irwin County. They’re a program that’s consistently at the top in the state. We’re excited to go down there.” [Mount Pisgah’s region comprises four private schools, and the Patriots’ only public-school opponent has been Mount Zion of Carroll County in September.]

4. What’s your impression of Irwin County after watching film? “Athletic is an understatement. They’ve got speed everywhere on the field. They’ve got multiple guys that can take it to house on any given play. It’s one of the things that a number of the private schools will run into because of the public-private [breakup] is they haven’t seen South Georgia speed. There are some fast guys in North Georgia, but not like South Georgia. I have to stress that to my team. We’re going to see speed at every position. They may not have the size that Darlington has, but they will be faster and stronger. Obviously we’re the outsider and the underdog. When you look at it on paper, that’s how it should be, but we wouldn’t be in the final eight if we were not a good football team, too.”

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