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Neighborhood rivals battle for bragging rights

Photo by Christine Troyke

Photo by Christine Troyke

In just four years, Dacula and Mill Creek have built a nice little rivalry.

Mill Creek, which opened in 2006, drew students from the Dacula district, so the first meeting featured former teammates playing against each other.

Mill Creek officially made it a rivalry the next fall when the two-year old school beat Dacula. The Hawks won again the next year, but Dacula evened the series last season on a crazy last play of the game.

"That's about what you can expect with this game," Mill Creek coach Shannon Jarvis said. "I think this game brings the best out of each team. It's fun to coach in because of the intensity. It's an important game and both teams know that."

The two teams, which are separated by less than 10 miles, meet tonight at Mill Creek for the rubber match of the series in the Battle of Braselton Road.

"The players all grew up in the youth league together, so they've played against each other for years," Dacula coach Kevin Maloof said. "Mill Creek opened and the kids split, but they've still remained friends.

"It makes it fun for the guys."

Dacula's win over Mill Creek last season propelled the Falcons to a 7-4 record and a trip to the first round of the playoffs. Dacula returns a large contingent from that team, including running back Dexter Walker and quarterback Rocky Capobianco.

"They have talented running backs and the quarterback is good, too," Jarvis said. "Their offense can hurt you if you have one mental lapse."

Dacula hit two big offensive plays in its season-opening, 21-12 loss to Norcross last week. Davian McEwan caught a 69-yard pass from Capobianco for a touchdown and sophomore Marcus Cox had an 86-yard run after being bottled up at the line of scrimmage.

"Norcross did a good job bottling us up," Maloof said.

Dacula will need more big plays against a Mill Creek team that has the ability to do a lot of things on offense. The Hawks were 5-5 last season, but return their quarterback John Russ and record setting receiver Brandon Hayman. Fullback Tyler Cierski, a Maryland commitment, and running back Devonte Lewis also return in the backfield.

"They look like a very good football team," Maloof said.

Dacula won last year's game 27-23 in the most exciting game of the series. With 12 seconds left in the game and Dacula trailing 23-21, the Falcons lined up for a 41-yard field goal. A low snap prompted holder Jake Brown to take off for the game-winning touchdown as time expired. It just added another chapter to the series that has been decided by an average of five points the last three contests.

"This a huge game, both teams need it," Jarvis said. "It has a huge impact on the season. You try to start the season on the right note."