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Hawks one win away from playoff berth

Mill Creek posted its biggest win of the season to put itself in the driver’s seat for the state playoffs.

Duluth hopes it can do the same tonight against the Hawks.

Mill Creek at Duluth

Mill Creek Hawks (7-AAAAA)

Coach: Shannon Jarvis

Record: 4-5, 3-3 region

Last week: Beat Peachtree Ridge 14-7

Duluth Wildcats (7-AAAAA)

Coach: Corey Jarvis

Record: 4-5, 2-4 region

Last week: Lost to North Gwinnett 26-7

When: Today, 7:30 p.m.

Last meeting: Mill Creek won 21-6 last year

Directions to Duluth High School: From I-85, take Ga. Highway 120 west to Buford Highway and turn right. Take a left at the next light onto Brock Road and school is on the left.

The Wildcats are one of three teams fighting for the No. 4 playoff seed in Region 7-AAAAA. A Duluth win over Mill Creek and a Peachtree Ridge loss would put all three teams in a tie for the final playoff spot.

It’s a scenario Duluth head coach Corey Jarvis didn’t even know was possible until after his team lost to North Gwinnett last week.

“When I was walking off the field, I thought it was over,” Corey Jarvis said. “It was actually Coach (Bob) Sphire that told me.”

If all three teams are tied it would got to a coin flip for the tiebreaker.

“With a loss, our chances would go from 100 percent to 33 percent,” Mill Creek head coach Shannon Jarvis said. “We’re not even thinking about that.”

Mill Creek has the best shot of getting in the playoffs. The Hawks knocked off Peachtree Ridge last week for just the second time in school history.

Mill Creek overcame a 7-0 halftime deficit to beat the Lions. Cody Rediger’s 44-yard touchdown catch put the Hawks ahead. It was Rediger’s first offensive play of the season as the senior starts on defense.

“Friday was the best group effort and group win I have ever been a part of,” Shannon Jarvis said.

Mill Creek has won all four meetings against Duluth and has outscored the Wildcats 150-9. Shannon Jarvis is quick to point out this year’s Duluth team isn’t the same as year’s past.

“You put in the game tape and see the games against North and Norcross, they played everyone tough in the first half,” Shannon Jarvis said. “They’ve got a good team. This isn’t a deal where you have to build up an opponent.”

Quarterback Anfornee Stewart has thrown for more than 1,300 yards this season with 10 TDs. Xavier Walker caught a 57-yard TD pass in last week’s loss.

“They can score. I know they haven’t put up a lot of points, but they can score from anywhere on the field,” Shannon Jarvis said. “They’ve got playmakers on offense and team speed.”

It was just a month ago that Mill Creek was 3-3 and had just forfeited a non-region win for using an ineligible player. The Hawks regrouped and got the key win over Peachtree Ridge and now just needs another win to make the playoffs for the second time in four years.

“That’s the key word, resilient. We’ve had some close games we lost, but they never quit believing in themselves,” Shannon Jarvis said. “I couldn’t be prouder in this group of kids.”

Duluth has made great strides in its first year under Corey Jarvis. The Wildcats have won as many games this season as the previous four years combined. The fact they are even in the playoff discussion is rare for a program that hasn’t seen the postseason since 1994.

“I think we’ve proven we can play with anyone in our region,” Corey Jarvis said. “Our kids just haven’t won that big ball game. Our kids have to find a way to win. Hopefully, this is the week they do.”