By Dwayne Aultman
DACULA - Now, it's a rivalry.
Leading up to the game between his Mill Creek team and Dacula, coach Shannon Jarvis had insisted that the game between the two schools, located just miles down the road from each other, couldn't really be considered a true rivalry until his Hawks held up their end of the bargain.
That piece of the puzzle is now in place. This game is now a rivalry.
Mill Creek (1-1) made several big plays down the stretch, culminating with a block of the potential tying field goal in the game's final seconds, to hold off Dacula and take a hard-fought 10-7 victory Friday night at Falcon Field.
"Yeah, I guess it is a rivalry now. At least, I hope it is," said Jarvis after the game. "What a great high school football game. Win or lose, everyone in attendance got their money's worth (tonight)."
After Mill Creek's Brian Heinze banged through the go-ahead 25-yard field goal with 3:43 remaining in the game, the Hawks made the first of their three game-changing, fourth-quarter defensive stands.
Three plays into its ensuing possession, Dacula quarterback Taylor Smith was picked off by Bart Kennelly and the Hawks were able to burn more clock before relinquishing possession four plays later.
Taking over on its own 27-yard line with 1:52 remaining, Dacula used a 16-yard pass from Smith to Casey Nutt and a 49-yard completion from Smith to Marshall Steed to advance to the Hawks' 8-yard line.
But on third-and-goal from the 5, senior linebacker Adam Stone blind-sided Smith with a bone-jarring sack.
"The quarterback just stood there and I made the hit," said Stone. "We called 'Jet Play' in the huddle - an all-out blitz - and it's never failed us. The play was there for the taking. I just finished it."
With no timeouts remaining, Dacula was forced to rush on its field goal unit to attempt the tie on fourth down. As the clock ticked away, the 30-yard attempt from Johnathan Pineda was blocked by the Hawks' Chris Boggs and all that was left for Mill Creek was one kneel-down to secure the biggest victory in the school's short four-year history.
"We beat them. We finally beat them," said an emotional Boggs after the game. "Everyone was telling me, 'you have to block it. Boggs, you have to block it.' I just did my best to try and get my hands on it."
Leading 7-0, Mill Creek took the second-half kickoff and controlled the clock for over eight minutes. But Dacula's Duke Terry tackled and stripped Mill Creek quarterback Zach Landis at the Falcons' 29-yard line to halt the 16-play drive.
Dacula scored on the final play of the third quarter to tie the game when Smith hit Steed for a 37-yard score.
But the Hawks continued to control the ball and the clock in the fourth quarter, taking advantage of a muffed punt return by Dacula to retain possession for over eight minutes. That drive culminated with Heinze's field goal, which turned out to be the game-winner.
"I really thought we had a team that could compete this year," said Jarvis. "We just needed some guys to step up and make some plays. (Tonight), we made those plays. All credit goes to the kids. We had a lot of great individual efforts and I'm so proud of them."
Mill Creek's Landis was 12-for-20 through the air for 161 yards with Ed Russ accounting for five of those receptions for 58 yards, including the only touchdown for the Hawks - a 22-yard scoring grab in the second quarter. Chris Avery had four catches for 32 yards.
Lenny Brooks rushed for 59 yards on nine carries and Julian James had 44 yards on 13 rushes. James also had one catch for 24 yards.
Dacula (0-2) was led by Smith, who completed 7 of 15 passes for 152 yards with one TD and one interception. He was also the team's leading rusher with 30 yards on 12 carries. Steed caught four balls for 104 yards and a score.
MILL CREEK 10
Mill Creek: Ed Russ 22 pass from Zach Landis (Brian Heinze kick) 11:03
Dacula: Marshall Steed 37 pass from Taylor Smith (Johnathan Pineda kick)
Mill Creek: Heinze 25 FG, 3:43