File Photo Brookwood's Josh Brown (28) gets tackled by Mill Creek's Ben Otiwu (83) and Patrick Dike (36) during the game earlier this season. The two play again tonight in the second round of the Class AAAAAA state playoffs.
Brookwood at Mill Creek
Brookwood Broncos (8-AAAAAA)
Coach: Mark Crews
Last week: Beat Lassiter 24-21 in overtime
Mill Creek Hawks (7-AAAAAA)
Coach: Shannon Jarvis
Last week: Beat Alpharetta 41-39
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: Brookwood won 31-21 on Sept. 7
Directions to Mill Creek High School: From I-85, take the Hamilton Mill Road exit and go east. At the immediate light, turn left on Ga. Highway 124/Braselton Highway. School is approximately three miles ahead on the left.
Mill Creek's football team already got a nice gift from Friday's opponent.
Brookwood upset No. 1-ranked Lassiter in the Class AAAAAA first round last week, giving the Hawks an unexpected home playoff game as a No. 3 seed. That opportunity is all the more special because it's the first-ever home playoff game for a Mill Creek program in its ninth season.
For that reason, a big crowd is expected when the Hawks host Brookwood on Friday in the second round. Mill Creek's fan support already was strong last week in a road game at Alpharetta, which the Hawks won for their school-record eighth victory.
"Last week when I came out after halftime, it was the first time I looked back and saw our stands were packed," Mill Creek head coach Shannon Jarvis said. "It was great to see all those people who made the trip to support our team. I can't say enough about our crowd at Alpharetta. I expect it will be a great atmosphere again when we play Brookwood. It's an opportunity for our community to show up and support our team, and a time for our community to come together.
"We don't have a downtown up here, so a lot of our community centers around the school. We've been very aggressive to host region track meets, region tennis, things like that, and this is another opportunity to our community to host a big event and for them to come out and see high school football at its best."
While the initial gift from Brookwood was nice, Jarvis doesn't expect any more from a program that is on the opposite end of the playoff spectrum from his Hawks. The Broncos have won two state titles, most recently two years ago, and have three state runner-up finishes in their history.
The second-round matchup with Mill Creek is Brookwood's 65th all-time playoff game, while it is the Hawks' sixth.
"Our kids respect Brookwood and what they've accomplished," Jarvis said.
These two teams, despite their differing histories, know each other pretty well because they played Sept. 7, the second week of the season. Brookwood, coming off a Corky Kell Classic loss to Walton, won 31-21 over Mill Creek, which had just defeated rival Dacula 35-0 in the season opener.
That game was played in Snellville.
"It's hard to beat a good team twice in the same year," Brookwood head coach Mark Crews said. "We played them in the second game and now we're both getting ready to play our 12th game. So a lot has happened since then. It seems like a year ago when we played them."
Mill Creek (8-3) made some mistakes that aided Brookwood (7-4) in the Game 2 victory, but the Broncos' offense also put up big numbers in an impressive second half to secure the win. Josh Brown rushed for 243 yards and a banged-up Jamaal Cole rushed for three touchdowns, including the game-clincher. Quarterback Zach Moon and wideout Ky Priester also have improved since 10 games ago, giving Brookwood a more potent passing attack.
Mill Creek's offense also had considerable success against a Bronco defense that has struggled for much of the season. Brookwood also only had to face Hawks running back Jacorey Lewis, the county's leading rusher, for barely more than two quarters. Lewis, who has rushed for 1,903 yards and 27 touchdowns, injured a shoulder on the first second-half series vs. Brookwood and didn't return.
"(Lewis) is a hard-nosed kid," Crews said. "He runs the ball tough and he's got enough speed to take it all the way. Sometimes those bruisers can get 20 yards, but they aren't going to go 80. But he can take it all the way."
That's definitely a concern for an injury-plagued Brookwood defense. The Broncos don't expect any of their injured players back for the second round, but Georgia commitment Shaun McGee, plagued by an ankle injury all season, is closer to 100 percent.
And Brookwood also is coming off its most impressive defensive outing last Friday, when it held powerful Lassiter scoreless after an early second-quarter touchdown put the Trojans up 21-0. Brookwood scored the game's final 24 points while pitching a shutout for the remainder of regulation and overtime.
Chris Dancy (20 tackles), Josh Moore (10 tackles, sack, tackle for loss), Darien Holston (six tackles, two sacks) and Colin Cotter (five tackles, overtime interception) were among the standouts, prompting Crews to say, "Our defense kept us in the game."
"Brookwood played very well in the second half vs. Lassiter," Jarvis said. "Coach Crews has got to be very proud of how they played. Brookwood made the plays it had to in the second half. That's what it comes down to in the playoffs."
That was a familiar sight for Jarvis.
Ten games ago, the Broncos made the necessary plays late to beat his Mill Creek team. The Hawks have found a way to win tight games since then --17-14 over Collins Hill in the regular-season finale and 41-39 over Alpharetta last week --and have gained the experience that will help in their first home playoff game.
"We've been fortunate to win some close games since (the Brookwood loss), Game 2," Jarvis said. "We didn't make the plays at the end and Brookwood did. In the end, we didn't stop them when we needed to."