In this 2012 file photo, Dacula and Mill Creek line up before the ball is snapped. The two rivals face off Friday.
MILL CREEK AT DACULA
Mill Creek Hawks (7-AAAAAA)
Coach: Shannon Jarvis
2012 Record: 9-4, Class AAAAAA state quarterfinals
Last week: Did not play
Dacula Falcons (8-AAAAAA)
Coach: Tommy Jones
Last week: Did not play
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: Mill Creek won 35-0 last year
Directions to Dacula High School: From Highway 316, go north on Highway 8 approximately one mile and school is on the left.
2012: Mill Creek 35, Dacula 0
2011: Mill Creek 35, Dacula 27
2010: Dacula 34, Mill Creek 31
2009: Dacula 27, Mill Creek 23
2008: Mill Creek 23, Dacula 15
2007: Mill Creek 10, Dacula 7
2006: Dacula 34, Mill Creek 0
Having played his high school football in Gwinnett County and spent time coaching here before, Tommy Jones understands what local neighborhood rivalries are all about.
So even though his inaugural game as Dacula’s head coach will be his introduction to the rivalry with Mill Creek when the Falcons and Hawks kick off Friday, he’s knows all about what the atmosphere will be like.
“The first game is always an exciting time at a high school, and in the community and a football program,” Jones said. “It’s not just a neighborhood rivalry. There’s always a big crowd and an exciting atmosphere.
“But I have the utmost respect for (Mill Creek) Coach (Shannon) Jarvis and his staff. Offensively, they’re so efficient running the football, and doing it by spreading the field and making you defend the whole field. And Coach (Tommy) Scott is one of the best defensive coordinators in the state. We’ll have our hands full.”
Besides trying to regain neighborhood bragging rights for the first time in three years, Jones’ Falcons are trying to put last year’s nightmarish 1-9 campaign behind them.
Beating a Mill Creek (9-4) team that advanced to the Class AAAAAA quarterfinals a year ago would be a big first step.
But as much as Jones respects the ability of the Hawks and playmakers like running backs DeVozea Felton, Johnathan Hawkins and Carter Governale and quarterback Daniel David on offense, as well as Andrew Sciara and Keanu James on defense, he believes his Falcons must be more inwardly focused Friday.
“Right now, our philosophy is — and I know it’s kind of coachspeak — to take it one game at a time,” Jones said. “Mill Creek is a big challenge for us, but it’s our biggest game because it’s our next game. We just want to play well and execute.
“We want to win the game, but at the same time, we have to be concerned with Dacula and playing the best we can. We’re excited about the challenge.”
So is Mill Creek, and Jarvis knows Dacula represents a formidable — and hungry — opponent despite last season’s disappointing campaign.
But with Jones coming in after coaching at Lumpkin County a year ago, and bringing in several new assistants, the Falcons have undergone a makeover on both sides of the ball, something Jarvis says he and his team will have to adjust to.
“Well, the first thing we did (when hearing of Jones’ hiring at Dacula) was scramble to dig up some film of Lumpkin County,” Jarvis joked. “And it’s more than just a new head coach. He’s got a lot of new assistants, so they bring their own philosophies. At the end of the day, you have to have the kids ready to adjust and play fast. And your players have to make plays.”
Despite breaking in a new starting quarterback and running back, the Falcons have several players on both sides of the ball capable of making plays, such as junior C.J. Mayes and seniors Zentavious Cobb and Nick Mollica.
That ability is something Jarvis says he and his team respects from what he’s seen of Dacula’s scrimmage.
“Offensively, they execute so well,” Jarvis said of the Falcons. “Their blocking is clean, and I don’t think the speed of their backs is really recognized like it should be, especially Mayes. We’ve got to be sound and not make mistakes with our gaps.”