Mill Creek quarterback John Russ (7) runs to the right with Dacula linebacker Azziz Higgins (44) in pursuit during the first quarter of a football game played Friday in Dacula.
Dacula All of a sudden, a football game once within hand started to slip.
But just like when the Hawks built their lead, they turned to senior quarterback John Russ to lead. Russ completed a third-down pass to Jacorey Lewis for 15 yards and then sealed the win with a fourth-down touchdown strike to Michael Cheeks to end any hopes of a Dacula comeback as Mill Creek went on to win 35-27 and re-take bragging rights in the border rivalry.
"This is a good way to start the season," Mill Creek head coach Shannon Jarvis said.
When the final gun finally went off, the capacity vistors crowd, almost all in white sprinted onto the Falcons' field, celebrating the closer-than expected win.
Because at halftime, the results looked certain with Mill Creek (1-0) leading 28-6.
Russ started the game completing his first seven passes for 151 yards to spark the offense.
The Hawks scored on their first two possessions and forced a three-and-out in between. Passes from Russ highlighted both drives. He completed a 43-yard pass to James Holder to set up a six-yard score by Lewis on the first drive. On the second, it was a 49-yard screen pass to Lewis on third down. Lewis made a spin move near the line of scrimmage to break free on the run. He punched it in on the next play.
"Jacorey Lewis ran the ball extremely hard," Jarvis said. "We have a lot of skill position players getting their first varsity experience."
Mill Creek vs. Dacula football highlights
Highlights from the Mill Creek vs. Dacula football game.
Russ ended the game completing 16 of 27 passes for 316 yards and two touchdowns. Lewis added four catches for 77 yards to go with his team-high 49 yards rushing.
Down 14-0, Dacula's (0-2) offense found some life and got plenty of help from Mill Creek. The Falcons went 69 yards, with the help of 35 yards in Mill Creek penalties, to get on the scoreboard. Marcus Cox found some space up the middle and shot 18 yards into the end zone. It was the biggest offensive play of the game for the Falcons at that point.
Until the fourth quarter Dacula never got closer.
The Hawks scored two more times in the second quarter, the first a three-yard pitch to Carter Governale to cap a 78-yard drive. Russ finally got his touchdown pass when he hit Governale in the corner of the end zone from 28 yards out.
"If we play the way we started the game, we have a chance to be special," Jarvis said. "If not, back to average."
Jarvis' biggest concern were his team's 164 yards in penalties in the game. More than once they faced first down conversions of more than 20 yards, including a first-and-41 in the second half.
"We have to work on our discipline," Jarvis said. "On Monday's practice we are going to get that fixed."
At the half, the Hawks' 65 penalty yards eclipsed Dacula's 49 total yards of offense, a show of how dominant the Mill Creek played the first two quarters.
But a late turnover by Russ ended the first half and Mill Creek gave the ball right back to Dacula on its first offensive play of the second half.
Dacula turned the fumble into points when Cox scampered 39 yards for his second of three touchdowns on the night.
As penalties continued to stall Mill Creek drives, the defense did enough to stall the Falcons offense just long enough.
It wasn't until the fourth quarter with Rocky Capobianco installed as quarterback, that the Falcons tightened the game. They rode the senior all-purpose player down the field with Capobianco rushing for 26 yards on the drive and ending it was a strike to Brandyn Bartlett to bring the Falcons to within 28-19 with 5:21 left in the game.
Capobianco led the Falcons with 79 yards rushing on 19 carries. Cox carried the ball 11 times for 74 yards.
But that's when Russ, his most recent passes picked off or incomplete, put the rough patch in the past and brought Mill Creek back to the end zone to put the game away.
"We are going to get better," Jarvis said. "It's a lot easier to correct the mistakes on Monday when you win."