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A rivalry is born between Dacula and Mill Creek

A little bit of history will be made tonight at Mill Creek.

The third-year program will take on another Gwinnett County football team for the first time since the school opened when the Hawks host the Dacula Falcons in a non-region game.

Although head coach Shannon Jarvis could probably think of a few other county schools he'd rather play than the talented Falcons, who advanced to the semifinals of the Class AAAAA playoffs last season and are coming off a hard-fought 6-0 win over Central Gwinnett in the season opener.

Meanwhile the Hawks are coming off a disappointing 27-0 loss to Northview.

"You know going in that coach (Kevin) Maloof has a good team," Jarvis said. "And for us to get the program to the level we want to be at, we've got to schedule good teams. That's a part of the growing process."

It's an intriguing game for a number of reasons, not the least of which are the facts that the two schools are separated by just about five miles and that Mill Creek drew a number of its students from the Dacula district when it opened in 2004.

On top of that, the timing of the game is ironic. The Hawks are moving into Region 7-AAAAA after two years of a non-region schedule while Dacula has moved out of the region and down to Class AAAA for the next two years - in large part because of the students it lost to Mill Creek - after winning the 7-AAAAA title in 2005.

"Region 7-AAAAA is extremely tough this year," Jarvis said. "We didn't want our kids to have any delusions going into region play, so we figured why not just go find the region champs from last year and schedule them?

"And we feel like it's an honor to have Dacula come over here and play."

Though Dacula is one of the top programs in the state and Mill Creek is one of the newest, both coaches feel like this game could develop into quite a rivalry in the future.

"I think historically any school that was a spinoff, or a breakoff, of an existing school, there tends to be that situation," Maloof said.

"There's no doubt that eventually it's going to be that type of deal."

The teams are scheduled to play again next year at Dacula.

Said Jarvis: "Everyone would like this to continue. We'll just see how the region pans out (in 2008). They'll probably be back in AAAAA, but who knows?

"But it's a natural rivalry as far as proximity. But in any great rivalry both teams have to do their part. We're working to make sure we can do our part. I have immense respect for Coach Maloof. We played him a lot when I was at South Gwinnett and every game we ever played was a dogfight."

Jarvis no doubt hopes he gives Maloof and his Falcons another dogfight tonight.

"Defensively I think they're going to be really good," Maloof said of the Hawks.

"I'm expecting a battle with them (tonight)."

Maloof wasn't sure what to expect from his defense in the season opener, with so many new starters on that side of the ball, but he was more than happy with the results.

"Any time you shut out a team, God Almighty you have to be pleased with that," Maloof said. "I wasn't surprised with the caliber of kids we've got, I felt all along this group could do some special things. But when they get under the lights, you're not sure how they're going to do."

They certainly passed the test last week. Up next: A Mill Creek team that has never played another Gwinnett foe before.

"We have to be good in all facets of the game against this team," Jarvis said. "It's a matter of putting it all together."