DACULA - Even though Friday night's contests between Dacula and Mill Creek's soccer squads were nonregion battles, don't tell the players involved that it wasn't a big game.
The natural rivalry between the two neighboring schools took another step in its growth as both Dacula's boys and girls teams held on for wins with the boys winning 2-1 and the girls getting a 1-0 shutout.
"This game means a lot more to my players than to me because they have been around longer than I have," Dacula boys head coach Mike Burrell said. "The players for each team have grown up together, played each other and really know each other and it's a big win for our guys."
Dacula's boys took a 1-0 lead with a goal in the first half by Luis Huertas off an assist from Daniel Carrandia and extended it to 2-0 in the second half when Carrandia scored an unassisted goal.
However, Mill Creek (4-7-1) kept battling and finally got a break on offense when Eric York was fouled in the box with 7:52 left to play.
That sent York to the line for a penalty kick and he converted, sending his shot under a diving Kris Alonzo to cut the margin to 2-1.
In the final five minutes, Mill Creek's offense produced several good looks at the goal. With 5:30 to play, Cody McCulloch got off a good shot but it sailed just over the crossbar. Four minutes later, Matt Muntean delivered a rifle shot from about 10 yards out but Alonzo, who saved six shots on the night, came up big with a brilliant save.
"He's only a sophomore but he's my No. 1 goalie," Burrell said of Alonzo. "He kept the defenses organized and I am looking forward to a lot more from him"
The Hawks had one last-ditch effort at tying the game when Mill Creek was awarded a free kick from just outside the top of the box with six seconds left. Lewis Makin took the shot but the ball deflected off one of the players on the wall and skidded out to the left of the goal, allowing time to expire.
"This is a good rivalry, playing Dacula, and it's always a good, competitive game," Mill Creek boys head coach Sean Garnett said. "I was proud of my guys for sticking in there because they had a lot of things going against them."
Dacula (7-2-1, 3-1) also dodged a bullet early in the second half when a Mill Creek goal was nullified because of an offside call.
The girls game also had its share of drama as the Falcons (10-2, 4-0) held on for 1-0 win in a physical battle. After an uneventful first half, the action picked up six minutes into the second half when Alexis Scott of Dacula took a feed from Emily Kubal, pulled away from her defender and hooked home a shot over the head of keeper Jennifer Vincent.
That goal seemed to stir up both teams as the action quickly picked as both teams were hit with a yellow card in the minutes following Scott's goal.
But it was the goals that didn't count that really made a difference as Mill Creek (3-8-1) had two goals waived off because of offsides violations.
The first of those came with 20 minutes left to play when Tatum O'Keefe worked her way in from the left corner toward the goal and scored, only to have the official rule the Hawks were offsides.
That scenario came into play again with 2:21 remaining when Torie Scalera delivered what would have been the equalizer only to see it wiped out for the second time in the half.
Dacula didn't help itself in the second half when Scott was tagged with a red card after pushing Jessica Beasley with 15:39 to play. That left the Falcons down a player just when Mill Creek's offense was getting its act together.
"That was the longest 15 minutes of my life," Dacula girls head coach Tracy Valentino said. "I just told them to dig deep and kick everything to the corners and get it out. Our defense was really together in the second half."
Dacula's Brittany Perrault played a nice game at keeper with six saves to preserve the shutout while Jordan Weaver led the defensive attack from the back line.