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Bragging rights on the line for Dacula, Mill Creek
New local rivalry continues to build

It may not have the intensity or region implications of Brookwood-Parkview or the history of Duluth-Norcross or Central Gwinnett-South Gwinnett.

However, the northeast Gwinnett clash between Dacula and Mill Creek is quickly becoming one of the county's top rivalries.

With each team having won once in the previous two meetings in this young rivalry, tonight's third edition at Mill Creek will mean plenty to the community.

"There is a lot of pride involved in this game," Mill Creek coach Shannon Jarvis said. "Whoever wins has bragging rights the next 365 days, and the kids know that. So, I expect it to be a good game."

While both coaches acknowledge the rivalry - especially with many of Mill Creek's players having come up through Dacula's youth program - there are plenty of reasons to look beyond it in preparing for tonight's contest.

Both teams hope a victory tonight will act as a springboard.

Dacula wants to build momentum in its return to Class AAAAA after two seasons in AAAA.

"It's a big game for both teams," Falcons coach Kevin Maloof said. "It's our first game (of the season). So obviously, it's important. But it's our next game, and hopefully, our kids will understand our next game is always our most important game."

Mill Creek is hoping to demonstrate they are here to stay as one of the top teams in Gwinnett and Region 7-AAAAA. They can do that by keeping momentum going after making the AAAAA state playoffs for the first time in school history last season.

"This is huge for us regardless of who we're playing," Jarvis said. "Coming off last season, we want to play as well.

"The focus (in practice this week) has been on ourselves (more than Dacula) because we've got to execute. We expect them to execute perfectly."

Execution will be important for both teams, especially with each team possessing explosive offensive weapons.

The Falcons may not have the dominant running back they've had in past years, but they do have a deep corps in the backfield that can get the job done.

Of more concern to Jarvis, Dacula is also capable of hurting teams through the air with speedy receiver Marshall Steed.

"Steed has a lot of speed, and their quarterback (Hunter Watts) throws the ball great and throws it on time," the Mill Creek coach said. "We've got to do a good job in the secondary of trying to contain Steed, but we can't ignore the run. They're a very balanced offense."

Meanwhile, Mill Creek has a pair of playmakers in Ed Russ and Zach Landis, who switch positions from last season, with the former taking snaps under center and the latter moving to receiver.

The different look the Hawks will present concerns Maloof, especially with the Falcons' defense still looking to establish itself.

"We've got to be careful," Maloof said. "We've got to rush the quarterback, but we have to tackle him, too. When you've got guys (like Russ and Landis) who can change skill positions like that, you know they're good athletes.

"We've got to solidify some things. We missed 21 tackles in our scrimmage, and we've got to better tackle better than we did in the scrimmage. But these are things we can fix, and we've got to fix them."

SideBar: Dacula at Mill Creek

Dacula falcons (8-AAAAA)

Coach: Kevin Maloof

2007 record: 5-5

Mill Creek hawks (7-AAAAA)

Coach: Shannon Jarvis

2007 record: 7-4

When: Today, 7:30 p.m.

Last meeting: Mill Creek won 10-7 last year

Directions to Mill Creek High School: From I-85, take the Hamilton Mill Road exit and go east. At the immediate light, turn left on Ga. Highway 124/Braselton Highway. School is approximately three miles ahead on the left.

Series History

· 2007: Mill Creek 10, Dacula 7

· 2006: Dacula 34, Mill Creek 0