Mill Creek quarterback Daniel David (12) tries to sneak past Dacula’s Andre Kotto (47) during Friday’s game at Dacula. (Photo: Craig Cappy)
DACULA — Both teams in the season-opening neighborhood rivalry between Mill Creek and Dacula proved they could roll up plenty yardage and points — provided they could hang onto the ball and not kill themselves with penalties and other mistakes.
It was the No. 9 state-ranked Hawks who did so earlier and more often.
Daniel David accounted for 248 yards of total offense and four touchdowns, while DeVozea Felton ran for 100 yards and caught three passes for 58 more to help Mill Creek hold off Dacula 41-28 on Friday night at Barron Stadium.
“Obviously, we’ve got to play better defensively,” Hawks coach Shannon Jarvis said. “And we will, and I think Dacula’s only going to get better, too. We knew as soon as we saw the film, they’re a good football team. So, my hat’s off to (Falcons) Coach (Tommy) Jones.
“We kept them from being within two touchdowns of us (most of the night), but we could never put them away. That’s a credit to Dacula. … But Daniel’s experience showed (Friday) night. He made some tremendous reads in the first half, and just managing the game in the second half without forcing anything.”
It was Felton who did much of the heavy lifting on Mill Creek’s opening drive with 30 of his 50 first-half yards on the ground.
But David had three big completions, the last a 14-yard scoring strike to Joseph Hull that put the Hawks in front 7-0 just 3:06 after the opening kickoff.
Dacula was able to move the ball on its first drive, marching 49 yards to the Mill Creek 16-yard line, but a 33-yard field goal attempt went wide to keep the Hawks in front.
David and Mill Creek took advantage, with the junior signal caller hooking up with Eric Ritland for a 28-yard gain, and then hitting Felton in the left flat, with the senior running back covering the 29 yards for the score that extended the lead to 14-0 with 18.6 left in the opening frame.
Dacula struck back quickly in the early stages of the second quarter, with Jakob Brashear taking a screen pass from Chris Warner and sprinting 71 yards to the Mill Creek 8.
That play set up Warner’s 8-yard TD pass to Kelan Fraise two plays later to pull the Falcons to within 14-6 with 10:51 left in the first half.
The remainder of the half boiled down to which team could take advantage of the other’s mistakes.
Dacula recovered a pair of Mill Creek fumbles — one at the Hawks’ 25 and the other at its own 20 — but could not capitalize on either.
Meanwhile, Mill Creek gained control on a bad snap on Dacula punt that resulted in a 14-yard loss, and it took the Hawks just one snap to cash in.
This time, David kept the ball on a option and found a seam up the middle for a 15-yard touchdown run to push the Hawks’ lead to 21-6 with 5:34 left in the half.
Ben Otiwu then pounced on a Dacula fumble at the Falcons’ 24 less than a minute and a half later, and David hit Felton with a 27-yard slant pass for the score that pushed the Mill Creek lead to 28-6 with exactly four minutes left in the half.
Still, Dacula kept fighting, and found success on the ground out of the Wildcat formation.
Jacque Evangelister ran three times for 50 yards on a seven-play, 60-yard drive that C.J. Mayes capped with a 2-yard scoring run, plus the two-point conversion, with 33.9 seconds left in the half to send the Falcons into halftime trailing just 28-14.
That deficit got even smaller when Fraise fielded the opening kickoff of the second half at his own 9-yard line, found a seam up the sideline and outraced the Mill Creek coverage for a 91-yard TD, and the Falcons were suddenly down just 28-20.
“When we got down early in the second quarter, I believe it was 28-6, I saw the kids really battle and fight and persevere,” Jones said of his team’s comeback. “I was proud of their effort.”
Dacula then caught even more momentum when Brashear picked off a deflected pass to set the Falcons up at midfield with 10:43 left in the third quarter.
But for the third time on the night, the Falcons couldn’t take advantage, and were forced to punt three plays later.
And Mill Creek answered with a 13-play, 80-yard drive that ended when Carter Governale, in his first game action since suffering a season-ending knee injury a year ago, dove in from a yard out to push Mill Creek’s lead back to two scores at 34-20 with 6:03 left in the period.
“In big-time games with rivalries, you’ve got to capitalize on turnovers,” Jones said. “Unfortunately, we weren’t able to do that (Friday) night.”
Both teams did have plenty of individual playmakers on the night.
Besides David and Felton, the Hawks got strong running from Johnathan Hawkins (13 carries, 58 yards), Governale (8-45, TD) and Andrew Sciara (2-18).
For the Falcons, Fraise finished with 130 all-purpose yards and three TDs, while Evangelister led all rushers on the night with 173 yards on 15 carries.