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Hawks, Lions eye defensive showdown

<p style="text-align:right;">Mill Creek&#8217;s Felton Devozea (1) runs the ball during the game against Dacula earlier this season. (Photo: Craig Cappy)

Mill Creek’s Felton Devozea (1) runs the ball during the game against Dacula earlier this season. (Photo: Craig Cappy)

Examining Mill Creek, it’s easy to stop with the offense.

In the Hawks’ three wins this year, they averaged 42.3 points with no outlier. They haven’t scored less than 40 yet this season.

Devozea Felton has more than 200 yards rushing and Carter Governale and Jonathan Hawkins each have four rushing touchdowns. Quarterback Daniel David has thrown for five more scores and 378 yards.

Yet through all those fireworks, Peachtree Ridge head coach Mark Fleetwood turned his attention to the Hawks’ balance heading into Friday's matchup of the Region 7-AAAAAA teams.

“I am really impressed with their attack on things offensively and defensively,” Fleetwood said. “I think to say one is better than the other is wrong.”

It seems Mill Creek’s Shannon Jarvis agrees.

“I’ve continued to be pleased with our defense,” the head coach said. “They went out and scored on the first two series of the game (last Friday). That is something we’ve been stressing since Week 1.”

The last two weeks, the Hawks only allowed 13 total points after giving up 28 to Dacula in the opening week. But the consistency on defense comes from the Lions. In Peachtree Ridge’s opening three wins, no team has broken 20 points against its defense.

“The key for both teams is who tackles the best and who tackles the best in space,” Jarvis said.

Both teams will spread the field.

In a 55-point outburst against Duluth, Brandon Johnson caught three touchdown passes on a 260-yard receiving night. First-year quarterback Chance Thrasher seems to get more comfortable leading the offense.

“(He’s) done a really good job being a first year starter,” Fleetwood said. “I think he’s gotten better each game as we go along.”

But Jarvis’ contention of a defensive game, counterintuitive as it may seem with two teams prone to offensive bursts, becomes credible just by a look at the past. In the seven meetings between the two schools, only once has the winner scored more than 30 points (Peachtree Ridge won 35-20 in 2011). And last year, the Hawks won with just 20 points. Peachtree Ridge leads the series 4-3.

“Our games have always been, traditionally, physical games,” Jarvis said. “I think both schools enjoy this game. I think our kids come ready to play. I can assure you we have our hands full.”

Entering Week 2 of region play, with two unbeaten teams, the stakes are high.

“It’s going to be a great challenge for us,” Fleetwood said. “But this is what this is all about, you try to get to these type of games.”

“This will be a great high school football game,” Jarvis said. “This is why Gwinnett County football has such a great reputation.”

Peachtree Ridge at Mill Creek

Peachtree Ridge Lions (7-AAAAAA)

Coach: Mark Fleetwood

Record: 3-0 (1-0 region)

Last week: Beat Duluth 55-17

Mill Creek Hawks (7-AAAAAA)

Coach: Shannon Jarvis

Record: 3-0 (1-0 region)

Last week: Beat Mountain View 42-3

Last meeting: Mill Creek won 20-10 last year.

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.

Series history:

2012: Mill Creek 20, Peachtree Ridge 10

2011: Peachtree Ridge 35, Mill Creek 20

2010: Mill Creek 14, Peachtree Ridge 7

2009: Peachtree Ridge 28, Mill Creek 0

2008: Peachtree Ridge 17, Mill Creek 9

2007: Mill Creek 17, Peachtree Ridge 10

2006: Peachtree Ridge 21, Mill Creek 13