HOSCHTON -- Only in its eighth season, Mill Creek's football team is still chalking up firsts. Another one came Friday night.
The Hawks started a season 3-0 for the first time in school history with a 28-0 win over Cherokee, continuing to build on a breakthrough 2010 season that saw them win their first playoff game and reach the Class AAAAA quarterfinals.
The latest victory was costly though, as starting quarterback John Russ suffered a concussion early in the game and didn't return, leaving his return for next week's game with Mountain View questionable. But backup James Holder played well in his absence, guiding the Hawks to a win in the home opener.
"I'm so pleased with the way James Holder came in and ran our offense," Mill Creek head coach Shannon Jarvis said. "Right before halftime, he ran our no-huddle well and got us a score there. James is a valuable receiver for us and the way he stepped in tonight, I could not be more proud of him."
Holder did most of his passing in the first half - he finished 5 of 9 for 70 yards - and the Hawks turned to the running game in the second half to seal the win. Jacorey Lewis had 10 rushes for 60 yards, Alonzo Collins carried three times for 49 yards and Carter Governale gained 47 yards on four attempts.
The defense did the rest. Big Kelsey Griffin had three tackles for losses and Brandon Holley (two tackles for losses, sack), Phillip LeConte (two tackles for losses) and Taylor Coleman (two tackles for losses) all played well against Cherokee's run-heavy offense.
Hayden Smith had an interception in the end zone to stop a drive and Steven Mancinelli also picked off a pass.
"I was very proud of our defense," Jarvis said. "We settled down after the first quarter and at the end of the day, got a shutout. The kids played well and our defensive coaches did a great job."
DeVozea Felton set up the game's first score with a 25-yard punt return with a personal foul facemask penalty tacked on. The hosts scored three plays later on Lewis' 8-yard run.
With Russ on the bench, Holder entered in the second quarter and immediately led a 13-play, 80-yard scoring drive. The left-hander completed 4 of 5 passes on the drive for 59 yards, the last eight coming on a scoring strike to Michael Cheeks, who spun and fought through defenders for the final three yards and stretched the ball across the goal line.
Felton's long kickoff return to open the second half set up a score on Mill Creek's first offensive play of the third quarter, a 23-yard run by Collins. Collins had another 23-yard TD run moments later on a four-play scoring drive that made the score 28-0.