Lions host Hawks in strange showdown

“You can throw out the records when these teams meet,” ranks high on the list of tired phrases bantered about sports by coaches, commentators and writers.

But for once, tonight, records actually don’t matter. At least for what is on the line.

Mill Creek at Peachtree Ridge

Mill Creek Hawks (7-AAAAA)

Coach: Shannon Jarvis

Record: 3-5, 2-3 region

Last week: Lost 28-3 to North Gwinnett

Peachtree Ridge Lions (7-AAAAA)

Coach: Bill Ballard

Record: 6-2, 3-2 region

Last week: Beat Duluth 35-14

When: Today, 7:30 p.m.

Last meeting: Peachtree Ridge won 28-0 last year

Directions to Peachtree Ridge High School: From I-85, take the Old Peachtree Road exit and go west. School is roughly two miles ahead on the right.

Series history:

2006 — Peachtree Ridge 21, Mill Creek 13

2007 — Mill Creek 17, Peachtree Ridge 10

2008 — Peachtree Ridge 17, Mill Creek 9

2009 — Peachtree Ridge 28, Mill Creek 0

Looking at win-loss totals, tonight’s Region 7-AAAAA game between Mill Creek and Peachtree Ridge would seem to tell the whole story.

It appears to be a chance for Peachtree Ridge to tuneup for a playoff run and for Mill Creek to build momentum for the future of its program.

Peachtree Ridge is 6-2 and coming off a win. The Lions have made the playoff the past four seasons and have lost just once in four meetings to Mill Creek.

The Hawks are 3-5 (though that includes a forfeit loss) and just lost to North Gwinnett. Their only win over their region-rival Lions came by a touchdown in 2007, the same season the Hawks made their only playoff appearance.

But those numbers don’t matter. The appearances of disparity mean little. Mill Creek may be below .500 and Peachtree Ridge may not be close to a losing record but a Hawks’ win tonight would put Mill Creek in a position to return to the land of 2007, to the playoffs. A Peachtree Ridge win would keep its consecutive playoff season streak alive. Tonight’s loser will most likely end the season after 10 games.

“We’ve known (about tonight’s importance) for a couple of weeks,” Mill Creek head coach Shannon Jarvis said. “This is a playoff game and I expect the game to be played that way.”

Peachtree Ridge closes the season against 7-AAAAA unbeaten North Gwinnett next week, while Mill Creek plays Duluth.

Tonight’s a game Lions head coach Bill Ballard began worrying about after Peachtree Ridge dispensed of Duluth last Friday.

“It really comes down to next week because we have to beat Mill Creek to get in,” Ballard said after the win. “So that’s a very big game for us now.”

And it shouldn’t be an easy game.

Against common opponents, the Hawks and Lions are both 2-2 with a scoring differential 10 points apart. Of the combined losses for the two teams all of them (save the Hawks’ forfeit) came to teams currently set to make the playoffs, including the top three teams in 7-AAAAA.

“They’ve had to battle through some injuries, but the bottom line is they have won,” Jarvis said of Peachtree Ridge. “They have a good record and we better make sure we are ready to play.

“I know our kids are excited. They know exactly what’s at stake here.”

A win would look nice for Mill Creek too, but the effect would mean more.

“Our goal is to make the playoffs,” Jarvis said.

The winner would be the No. 4 seed out of 7-AAAAA, but Jarvis just wants the chance to play extra games.

“When you play the teams you do in our region, you have as good a chance as any to make a run in the playoffs,” he said.

Getting there, well, that depends on tonight.