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Mill Creek Hawks 2011 Football Preview

Mill Creek Hawks 2011 Football Preview

— Mascot: Hawks. Coach: Shannon Jarvis (33-41 at Mill Creek, 33-41 overall) Region: 7-AAAAA Last playoff appearance: 2010

Offense

2011 Schedule

Aug. 26 at Dacula

Sept. 2 at Alpharetta

Sept. 9 Cherokee

Sept. 16 at Mountain View

Sept. 23 Norcross

Oct. 7 at Meadowcreek

Oct. 14 Collins Hill

Oct. 21 at North Gwinnett

Oct. 28 Peachtree Ridge

Nov. 4 Duluth

2010 Results (7-6)

Dacula L 34-31

Alpharetta W 31-12

at Cherokee L 35-14*

Mountain View W 42-6

at Norcross L 34-19

Meadowcreek W 47-0

at Collins Hill L 42-34

North Gwinnett L 28-7

at P'tree Ridge W 14-7

at Duluth W 34-23

at Etowah W 32-7

at South W 49-34

at Colquitt Co. L 27-14

*Forfeit

Graduation wiped out the bulk of Mill Creek's playmakers from last season, like big Tyler Cierski and speedy Devonte Lewis at the running back spots and wideout Brandon Hayman, the program's all-time leader in every receiving category.

The good news is that John Russ (pictured), entering his third year as a starter, is back at quarterback.

The senior accounted for 3,087 total yards last season, throwing for 2,245 yards and 21 touchdowns and running for 842 yards and six more scores. In three playoff games alone, he tallied more than 1,000 yards.

"John has matured so much, both within the season last year and in the offseason," Mill Creek head coach Shannon Jarvis said. "He realizes how important it is to spread things around to different guys. We've got some good, young skill guys, but John has to play a vital role of getting them adjusted on Friday nights. He's got to have a calm demeanor and help them out."

Running backs Carter Governale, Jacorey Lewis and Alonzo Collins have impressed the coaches thus far, while Kyle Freiberger and Deonte Holeman head up a group of receivers with a lot of potential. Freiberger, coming back from a knee injury, hopes to be ready early in the season.

Mill Creek typically has a strong offensive front, led this year by seniors A.J. Ruechel and Zach Johnson and bruising tight end Joey Everette-St. Claire. The other three starters, however, are new and must grow up fast.

"It's critical that those other three spots come on," Jarvis said. "They're capable of doing it, but they still have to prove it on Friday nights."

Defense

Colquitt County averaged 38.8 points in five playoff games last season (including 38 in a state finals loss to Brookwood), but Mill Creek's defense held Colquitt mostly in check in a 27-14 quarterfinals loss last season. It was one of the lowest-point totals all season by the Packers.

That effort was typical of the way the Hawks played on defense late in 2010, beginning with a 14-7 win over Peachtree Ridge that was key to making the playoffs. They also held Etowah to seven points in a first-round playoff win and survived an explosive South Gwinnett team in the second round.

Seven starters return from that defense, including big defensive lineman Kelsey Griffin (97 tackles from the interior line) and defensive end Phillip Leconte. Everette-St. Claire also is an important player at defensive end, while Taylor Coleman gives the linebacking corps a huge boost. A starter early last season, Coleman sat out late in the year with an injury.

The secondary is the deepest spot on the defense with returning starters Evan Cavaliere, Hayden Smith, Collins and James Grace.

"Those kids have tremendous experience," Jarvis said of the secondary. "They were able to really eliminate big plays, which had been a problem of ours in the past."

Breakthrough year

The Hawks went 7-6 last season, tying a school record for wins, but they took a major step at the end of the season.

Fighting into the playoffs out of tough Region 7-AAAAA, they won two road playoff games in impressive fashion over higher seeds before losing a close one at Colquitt County in the quarterfinals. The run made history for the still-young program, which had never won a playoff game until a Nov. 12 win over Etowah.

On paper, it was quite a breakout season.

"I don't know if you would call it a turning point," Jarvis said. "It's something 10 years from now that maybe you can look back and see if it was a turning point. What I call it is a bunch of kids who bought into themselves and played their best football at the end of the season. But this is a new year. What matters now is what we do this year."

Etc.

While it made some playoff noise last season, Mill Creek still has some work to do in 7-AAAAA, particularly against the perennial heavyweights in one of the state's top regions. The Hawks are still searching for their first-ever wins over Norcross (0-5) and North Gwinnett (0-5), while they also have losing records vs. Collins Hill (1-4) and Peachtree Ridge (2-3). ... Ruechel (Air Force) and Coleman (Navy) already have offers from service academies. Griffin, still just a junior, is the Mill Creek recruit drawing the most attention. The big defensive lineman already holds verbal offers from Auburn and Georgia. ... The coaching staff remains entirely the same from last season. Tommy Scott will continue to be defensive coordinator, while Josh Lovelady (running game) and Chad Rogers (passing game) will share offensive coordinator duties.

-Will Hammock

PROBABLE STARTERS

Offense

QB John Russ (6-0, 185, Sr.)

TB Carter Governale (6-0, 195, Soph.)

FB Jacorey Lewis (5-10, 175, Jr.)

WR Deonte Holeman (6-3, 165, Sr.)

WR Kyle Freiberger (6-1, 181, Sr.)

TE Joey St. Clair-Everette (6-0, 210, Sr.)

ST Zack Johnson (6-3, 265, Sr.)

SG A.J. Ruechel (6-2, 250, Sr.)

C Matt Kopp (5-10, 250, Jr.)

QG Landon Peery (6-1, 240, Sr.)

or Joe Cox (6-0, 220, Jr.)

QT John Troutman (6-0, 270, Jr.)

PK Jake Joyner (5-11, 170, Sr.)

Defense

DE Phillip Leconte (6-1, 220, Sr.)

DT Michael Lindsey (6-0, 230, Sr.)

NG Kelsey Griffin (6-3, 270, Jr.)

DE Trevor Joyce (6-2, 220, Sr.)

SLB Taylor Coleman (6-0, 210, Sr.)

MLB Steven Mancinelli (6-0, 200, Sr.)

WLB Brandon Holley (5-11, 192, Jr.)

SS Evan Cavaliere (6-0, 185, Sr.)

FS Fabian Taylor (6-0, 185, Sr.)

CB Hayden Smith (6-0, 160, Sr.)

CB Alonzo Collins (5-10, 170, Sr.)

or James Grace (5-10, 170, Sr.)

P Jacob Bowes (6-5, 180, Sr.)

Mill Creek Roster

1 Kyle Nichols WR 11

2 Eric Ritland QB 10

3 Matt Pursell WR 11

4 Alonzo Collins RB/DB 12

5 Kalin Toledo DB 11

6 Deonte Holman WR 12

7 John Russ QB 12

8 Kyle Freiberger WR 12

9 Jake Joyner PK 12

10 B.J. Harmon DB 11

11 James Holder WR/QB 12

12 Cameron Handy DB 12

13 James Grace DB 12

14 Michael Cheeks WR 11

15 Jin Han WR 11

16 Jacob Bowes P 12

17 Matt Purvis WR 12

18 Carter Governale RB 10

19 Jordan Marshall DB 12

20 Austin Taunton DB 11

21 Patrick Waugh DB 12

22 Justin Dennis DB 11

23 Evan Cavaliere DB 12

24 Dante Dixon RB 12

25 Justin Otiwu DE/TE 11

26 Sam Robinson LB 11

27 Hayden Smith DB 12

28 Jacorey Lewis RB 11

29 Fabian Taylor DB 12

30 Kyle Dye FB 12

31 Steve Mancinelli LB 12

32 Zach Sergio FB 12

33 Brandon Scott LB 11

34 Jacob Wiley DB 12

35 Mike Major LB 11

36 Patrick Dyke RB/LB 11

37 Adonijah Bingham QB/DB 11

38 Collin Chiu PK/P 11

39 Brandon Holley LB 11

40 Michael Leonard DE/RB 10

41 Phillip Leconte DE 12

42 Gabriel Franklin RB 11

43 Khalil Bussey RB 11

44 Taylor Coleman LB 12

45 Keanu James DB/WR 10

46 Hunter Atkins DB 11

47 Hunter Kemp DE 11

48 Cole Gillian DB 11

49 Joey St. Claire-Everette TE/LB 12

50 Jordan Satary DE 12

51 Trevor Joyce DE 12

52 Kaleb Kim OL 9

53 Matt Kopp OL 11

55 A.J. Ruechel OL 12

56 Landon Peery OL 12

57 Charles Jones DL 11

63 Conner Cooper OL 11

71 John Troutman OL 11

74 Jacob Lee OL 11

75 Zack Johnson OL 12

76 Everette Burris OL 11

77 Joe Cox OL 11

78 Josh Fannin OL 9

80 Colin Purvis WR 11

81 Daniel Flores WR 11

84 Sanders Poe DE 12

88 Josh Smith DE 11

89 Matt Beck DE/TE 11

94 Kelsey Griffin DL 11

95 Seth Lawrence DL 11

97 Michael Lindsey DL 12