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Hawks hold on for playoff win

SHARPSBURG -- Mill Creek showed some grit and determination on the road in the second round of the Class AAAAA boys soccer state playoffs as the Hawks held on for a 3-2 win over East Coweta at Garland Shoemake Stadium on Tuesday.

Mill Creek (15-4) moves on to the quarterfinals to play the Centennial-Harrison winner Friday.

East Coweta finishes its season at 16-4.

"I'm so proud of this team for hanging tough," Mill Creek head coach Sean Garnett said. "That is one outstanding team (East Coweta) we beat tonight and they just keep coming at you. I can't say enough about our guys. We got the lead early, but I could feel the momentum shifting and I think we were starting to play without much confidence heading to the half. But we regrouped in the second half and played well."

Mill Creek struck quickly in the opening half as Tajay Hoppiness scored from the right side to give the Hawks a 1-0 lead at 38:46.

"That first goal early gave us some momentum and we rode that for 10 minutes or so," Garnett said.

Mill Creek cashed in again with 14:40 to go as Nick Muntean scored on a header, assisted on a long pass from Hoppiness, that put the Hawks ahead 2-0.

"Nick's goal was huge because (East Coweta) was starting to get into their game," Garnett said. "We could feel their pressure starting to come at us."

East Coweta answered less than four minutes later as Conner Antley broke away down the middle of the field and connected for the Indians' first goal.

East Coweta continued to pressure the Mill Creek end, but goalkeeper Steven Arroyave and the Hawks' defense held steady to maintain the 2-1 lead at halftime.

After both teams had scoring chances early in the second half, East Coweta turned up the offensive pressure again as Arroyave came up with three huge saves inside the 20:00 mark of the second half.

Mill Creek fed off that momentum as Brandon O'Toole scored from the right side to give Mill Creek a 3-1 advantage with 13:33 remaining in the game.

"Brandon's like a bulldozer out there," Garnett said. "I think he has like 10 goals or so and eight of them are like that when he just puts his head down and goes toward the goal. He's just a big-time player."

That two-goal margin slipped away five minutes later as Ian Antley found an opening in the Mill Creek defense and scored to make it 3-2 with 8:27 left.

But Mill Creek held steady down the stretch and pulled out the one-goal victory.

Arroyave finished with eight saves as East Coweta put 10 shots on goal and sent another six that missed wide or high.

"Arrovaye has been coming up big for us all year and in big games," said Garnett. "A lot of times he's not the most heralded player and people just don't know how big he's been coming up for us. (East Coweta's) two strikers up top just kept coming at us and they were relentless. But our whole defense played their hearts out."