Playing a region 7-AAAAA schedule is tough – especially when that schedule includes two top ten ranked teams in a 14 day period.
After a brief homecoming respite last week, Mill Creek must once again square off against the best the region has to offer when they host No. 6 North Gwinnett on Friday.
The Bulldogs are coming off a big win last week against two-time defending region champion Norcross. After trailing 19-10 at the half, North Gwinnett scored 23 unanswered points last Friday to crush the Blue Devils 33-19.
Mill Creek head coach Shannon Jarvis said his team cannot make any mental mistakes if they are going to compete with the Bulldogs.
“The jumping offsides, that sort of thing, has to be totally eliminated for this team to have a chance against North Gwinnett,” he said.
Mill Creek heads into this Friday’s game 1-1 in the region. The Hawks picked up their first region win with last week’s 42-0 rout of Duluth.
Jarvis said his team needed to build on the win over the Wildcats as they get ready to face North Gwinnett and continue the fight for a region playoff berth.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. in Hoschton.
Hawks blank Wildcats
Coaches, players and fans always hope that homecoming will be an easy win, but victory is never guaranteed – especially when facing a team with nothing to lose.
Though Duluth entered Friday’s game 0-3, the Wildcats took the field with the enthusiasm of a winning team.
Unfortunately for the beleaguered Wildcats, they had the wind taken out of their sails early.
After Mill Creek’s Brandon Haymon returned the opening kickoff to the Duluth 35, it took only a few plays to set up first and goal for the Hawks at the Duluth 6-yard line. Two plays later, Ramael Wilson ran the ball in for Mill Creek’s first touchdown of the night. After the extra point by Brian Heinze, the Hawks led 7-0 with 9:31 remaining in the first quarter.
Duluth fought back on the next possession. After going to work on their own 32, Duluth’s Quinton Cobb ran the ball 36 yards to pick up a first down in Mill Creek territory. Hansel Guevara followed with a 29 yard run of his own to bring up first and goal at the Mill Creek seven.
After reaching the one yard line, Duluth decided to go for the touchdown on fourth and goal. An impressive stand by the Mill Creek defensive line left the Wildcats scoreless and forced Duluth to turn the ball over on downs.
Unable to move the ball, the Hawks were forced to go three and out. Duluth got the ball back at the Mill Creek 45. The Wildcats were unable to capitalize on the good field position and punted after three unsuccessful attempts to move the chains.
Mill Creek’s offense was more productive on its next possession, scoring six on another touchdown run by Wilson. The extra point by Heinze was good, giving Mill Creek a 14-0 lead with 24 seconds remaining in the first.
Things just got worse for Duluth from that point forward as the Hawks scored on each of their next four possessions.
Mill Creek jumped ahead early in the second quarter when Chris Avery caught a 54-yard pass from Ed Russ for a touchdown. Once again, Heinze split the uprights to give Mill Creek a 21-0 lead.
After a quick three and out by Duluth, Mill Creek began its next scoring drive at their own 34. After running 23 yards to set up first and goal, James Powell capped the drive off with a two-yard touchdown run.
Mill Creek would score once more before the half, this time on a one-yard carry by Tyler Cierski. The Hawks led 35-0 at intermission.
Thanks to the mercy rule, the second half was quick, if not painless, for the Wildcats.
With the clock running continuously, Duluth suffered through only one more Mill Creek scoring drive.
After Duluth went three and out on their opening possession of the half, Mill Creek took over at the Duluth 39. Zach Landis, in at quarterback, ran for eight yards to bring up second and two. Two plays later, Tyler Cierski picked up a first down on a five yard carry. Keshawn Bussey ran nine yards on the next play to bring up second and one. The Hawks converted and two plays later, Cierski ran 13 yards for the sixth and final Mill Creek touchdown of the night.
Despite trailing 42-0, the Wildcats did not give up, driving deep into Mill Creek territory on their next possession. After reaching first and goal at the Mill Creek five, Duluth had four chances to get the ball in the end zone, but the Hawks’ defense held fast. Once again, Duluth turned the ball over on downs after going for a touchdown on fourth and goal.
The Wildcats ended the night scoreless, losing 0-42.
By the Numbers
Ed Russ finished the night 8-of-9 for 173 yards. Russ also added 25 yards on five carries.
Tyler Cierski led the Hawks in rushing, going 44 yards on eight carries. James Powell ran for 37 yards on four attempts and Ramael Wilson picked up 34 yards on eight touches.
Brian Heinze was 6-for-6 for PATs.
Defensively, Mill Creek was led by Ryan Robinson with five solo tackles, two tackles for a loss and one quarterback hurry. Scott Ooley added four tackles and five assists. James Powell, Harrison Reed and Ricky Fawbush each had a tackle and five assists. Huram Joseph had three solo tackles, one assist and one tackle for a loss.
Better than Practice
Jarvis said Friday’s win was important for his team.
“There is some concern after you lose a tough game like we did last week – you come out and slop around and feel sorry for yourself,” he said. “I’m not going to lie to you, we did not have a good past couple of days of practice this week.”
Jarvis said he and his staff spent last week trying to get the players refocused.
“I thought they came out and played better than they practiced,” he said.
While proud of his team, Jarvis also had plenty of praise for Duluth.
“I’m going to say this about Duluth. Their kids played hard throughout the game,” he said. “We’ve been in their shoes. [Coach McDonald has] some players that just enjoy playing the game of football. I’ve got the utmost respect for Coach McDonald and that program and his kids. I give them a lot of credit for how hard they played.”
Mill Creek improved to 3-1 overall with Friday’s win.