Special Photo: Brian Westerholt/Sports on Film. Collins Hill grad Barrett McMillin, center, returns to the Atlanta area today as Wake Forest takes on Georgia Tech at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
No Wake Forest football player wanted to be in this spot.
After growing into one of the ACC's top teams in recent years, the Demon Deacons had high hopes for this season. But at 4-5 overall thanks to a string of close losses, they need a strong finish to secure their fourth straight bowl game.
That quest continues today when Wake travels to Atlanta for a game with an 8-1 Georgia Tech team. Games follow against Florida State and Duke, so finishing a desired 7-5 will be tough.
One of those Wake players, senior lineman Barrett McMillin, knows that. But it's still the goal for the Collins Hill grad and his teammates.
"We could easily be 8-1 right now," McMillin said. "We lost four games by three points or less. Except the Clemson game we lost 38-3, we could have won the others. We lost to Miami by one (last week). If we could have gotten one thing to go our way in those games, it could have been different.
"But we've got to keep working hard and staying positive."
Motivation will be easy today for McMillin. Wake hasn't played Tech in Atlanta since 2005, his redshirt season. So his first college game in his hometown will be his last.
He has at least 15 family members and friends that plan to come watch today's game.
"I'm definitely excited," McMillin said. "I've got a bunch of people coming so I'm having to scramble to find enough tickets."
The 6-foot-3, 290-pounder has built an impressive college career, playing a lot of football for a program that has been to three straight bowls and won the 2006 ACC championship. Always known for his strength -- he bench pressed 500 pounds at Collins Hill -- he has only added to that in college, upping his power clean (340) and hand clean (370) numbers much higher than they were in high school.
That helped him get in on 48 snaps of the FedEx Orange Bowl his redshirt freshman. He's gone on to be a regular starter at both guard and tackle his final three seasons.
"I can't believe there are only three games left in my senior season," McMillin said. "Everybody tells you it will go by so fast and it does. You can't take it for granted."
McMillin was part of a bigger cast of Gwinnett contributors for Wake, though injuries have taken a big toll on that group. Brookwood grad Terence Davis, a freshman who McMillin said could have been the team's No. 1 wide receiver, suffered a season-ending knee injury in August practice. Senior Ben Wooster, considered one of the nation's top tight ends, has been out with a back injury.
Sophomore Cyhl Quarles avoided the injury woes and is a starter in the Demon Deacons' secondary. The Meadowcreek grad is second on the team with 48 tackles (31 solos).
SEC honors Gwinnett standouts
Three Gwinnett products -- Georgia's Laura Eddy, LSU's Melissa Clarke and South Carolina's Samantha Diaz-Matosas -- were honored this week on the All-SEC soccer teams.
Eddy, a Gwinnett resident who went to Marist, was named the SEC Freshman of the Year. The defender also was a second-team All-SEC selection and the only freshman on either the first or second team. She started all 18 games at defender and scored a game-winning goal vs. Mississippi State.
Clarke, a Norcross grad, and Diaz-Matosas, a Brookwood grad, were both second-team All-SEC for their senior seasons. Clarke, a midfielder, was one of the SEC's top offensive players this season with 10 goals and four assists. Diaz-Matosas is a key defender for the Gamecocks, who entered Friday night's SEC semifinals with a 16-3-1 record. She has three goals and four assists.
Berry seniors finishing strong
Berry College senior soccer players Shannon Hackett (North Gwinnett), Laura Phyfer (Brookwood), Paige Banham (North Gwinnett) and Mary Brugh (Parkview) have played well at the close of their final seasons.
Berry defeated rival Shorter 2-0 last weekend behind a shutout from Banham at goalkeeper and a goal from Hackett. Berry's other goal came from Dacula's Jenna Davis off an assist from Collins Hill's Kristen Brooks.
The senior day win also was a fundraiser for the Taylor Brooks Foundation, which honors the legacy of Kristen Brooks' sister Taylor and raises money to fight childhood cancer. Taylor Brooks was a Collins Hill freshman when she passed away at the age of 14.
Berry's solid play continued Tuesday with a 3-0 win over Southern Wesleyan. Phyfer and Hackett had a goal and an assist each, while Banham recorded her seventh shutout of the season. Hackett now has four goals in Berry's last four games.
Richardson gets SEC honor
Parkview grad Brett Richardson was selected this week to the All-SEC Freshman Team after a strong debut season with the Georgia cross country team. He initially started his career at Georgia State before opting to transfer.
Richardson placed 32nd at last weekend's SEC Championships at Ole Miss, finishing the 8K course in 26 minutes, 3.43 seconds. UGA teammate and fellow Parkview grad Brian Detweiler was 41st in 26:27.88.
Collins Hill grad Allyson McGinty placed 42nd for the UGA women with a 6K time of 22:58.63.
Castle named CCSA swimmer of the week
Davidson junior Emily Castle, a Grayson grad, was named the Coastal Collegiate Swimming Association swimmer of the week on Wednesday.
Castle won two individual races and a relay title in a wekeend dual meets with College of Charleston and William & Mary. She won the 200 butterfly in 2:08.13, just off the Davidson record, against William & Mary and won the 50 free (27.74) the following day vs. Charleston, along with swimming on a first-place 400 medley relay.
Gwinnett Grads is a column that runs on Saturdays spotlighting the achievements of past Gwinnett standouts. Coaches and parents are urged to send suggestions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or via fax to 770-339-8081.