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Hawks-Falcons rivalry hasn't faded

Eventually athletes in the Dacula and Mill Creek clusters won't know each other so well. They will have grown up in separate youth leagues, instead of growing up as teammates.

But that point hasn't arrived yet.

When the two schools meet tonight at Dacula, friends will be playing friends. Former teammates, split apart when Mill Creek opened in 2004 and pulled much of its population from nearby Dacula, will go head to head.

"The crowd will be great if the weather's good, it should be fun," Dacula head coach Kevin Maloof said. "A lot of these kids still played together in the Dacula youth leagues. We've still got a year or two left of that."

That currently fuels the rivalry, but Mill Creek head coach Shannon Jarvis expects that sheer geography will keep the series important in the future.

"We're still close communities, a lot of the kids see each other because they're so close to us," Jarvis said. "It started out, Year 1, it was a rivalry because we split off (as a school) from (Dacula). I think now it's about how close we are to them as much as it is that we split off from them."

Location isn't all the two programs share in common this season.

Both are coming off seasons that fell short of expectations to some degree. Dacula made the playoffs, but its 5-6 record is far from the standard under Maloof, the Falcons' coach since 1991. Mill Creek had a winning record at 6-4 last season, but failed at its goal of reaching the playoffs.

As both teams aim for better this season, they do so with new starting quarterbacks. Mill Creek's new signal-caller is John Russ, a sophomore who replaces his older brother Ed, now at West Georgia. Dacula plans a two-QB rotation with senior Andy Agudelo and sophomore Rocky Capobianco.

"Both of them will play (tonight)," Maloof said of his QBs.

Agudelo and Capobianco will work behind a young Dacula offensive line, but the Falcons do have a veteran defensive unit.

"We feel like we'll be pretty good on defense," Maloof said. "The defense will carry us early in the season."

Mill Creek also will be young, returning just four starters on offense and five on defense. The latest lineup is heavy on junior and sophomore starters, including fullback Tyler Cierski, wideout Brandon Hayman, offensive lineman Austin Hagan and linebacker Cody Rediger, juniors who all started last season as sophomores.

"I think this game's critical to get the season going how we want it to," Jarvis said. "Not just because it's our crosstown rival, but it's just big to get the momentum of the season going. And when you play your rival, you don't have to say anything to get the players fired up. I know Dacula's the same way, we know we'll get their best game."

SideBar: MILL CREEK AT DACULA

Mill Creek Hawks(7-AAAAA)

Coach: Shannon Jarvis

2008 record: 6-4

Last week: Did not play

Dacula Falcons (8-AAAAA)

Coach: Kevin Maloof

2008 record: 5-6

Last week: Did not play

When: Today, 7:30 p.m.

Last meeting: Mill Creek won 23-15 last year

Directions to Dacula High School: From Highway 316, go north on Highway 8 approximately one mile and school is on the left.

Series history:

2008 - Mill Creek 23, Dacula 15

2007 - Mill Creek 10, Dacula 7

2006 - Dacula 34, Mill Creek 0