Hawks' run comes to an end against Centennial

ROSWELL -- Mill Creek's deepest playoff run came to an end on Friday night as the Hawks fell 3-1 to top-ranked Centennial in the quarterfinals of the Class AAAAA state playoffs.

The Hawks went stride-for-stride with Centennial for most of the match, trailing just 2-1 at the half. However, Centennial broke through with Connor Davis' third goal of the night midway through the second half, giving the Knights (19-1-1) more than enough cushion for the final 19 minutes.

"We had control in the second half when we were down 2-1 but it was tough giving up that third goal," Mill Creek head coach Sean Garnett said. "That kind of took the wind out of our sails. (Centennial) is a good team and I knew scoring on them would be tough. They are good at what they do."

All three of Davis' goals, his 27th, 28th and 29th of the season, came from assists by Ryan Spence. However, it wasn't Spence's crisp passing that led to the goals, but his prowess on throw-ins as all three goals were direct results from long tosses in the box.

All three pitches were so precise that the ball never hit the ground while in play.

"Those throw-ins were impressive," Garnett said.

Centennial was very active in the first half, recording six shots on goal and logging seven corner kicks. Mill Creek keeper Steven Arroyave was able to thwart four of those, but was unable to stop the Spence-Davis connection in the air.

Davis' first goal came 13 minutes into the match when Spence made a long throw-in from 30 yards out down the right side.

That 1-0 edge stood for seven minutes when Mill Creek got its only corner kick of the match. Nick Muntean took the honors and sent it towards the middle of the box.

Zach Mruk redirected Muntean's pass to Tajay Hoppines, who worked it past Centennial keeper Cameron Bean for the 1-1 equalizer with 19:29 left in the half.

It looked like the first half would end at 1-1, but Centennial found itself in position again for a Spence throw-in, this time connecting with Davis with 1:11 left in the half.

"I thought we were timid in the first half, and that's probably my fault," Garnett said. "We came back and played hard in the second half."

Despite its increased effort in the final 40 minutes, Mill Creek (15-5) was only able to log two shots on goal. The Hawks had no problems in getting possessions and moving the ball downfield, but Centennial's back four worked hard to prevent any good looks by the Mill Creek offense.

With the defense holding Mill Creek's offense in check, Davis' third goal of the night with just over 19 minutes remaining effectively out the game out of reach.

The loss brought an end to Mill Creek's most successful season that saw the Hawks finish runner-up in rugged Region 7-AAAAA and reach the state quarterfinals for the first time.

"It's been an outstanding season and I'm so proud of these guys," Garnett said. "This is an outstanding senior class and has really raised the bar for us."

Centennial will compete in the semifinals next Tuesday against the Parkview-Walton winner.