Peachtree Ridge’s Jordon Ellis (1) gets down to the 2-yard line before he is tackled by Mill Creek’s Andrew Sciara (21) and David Tran (32) during Friday’s game. (Photo: Craig Cappy)
As he reeled play after play that impacted Friday’s 31-30 win at Mill Creek, Mark Fleetwood had a big smile on his face.
“So many key plays,” the Peachtree Ridge head coach said.
Laceem McCall had two sacks to spark a defense that played without Dru Moody and Nick Glass, while Travis Bowers had a part in two crucial turnovers. Bowers had an interception on Mill Creek’s first offensive play to set up his offense on the Hawks’ 20-yard line. He also recovered a second-half muffed punt that gave Peachtree Ridge possession at the Mill Creek 12. Both turnovers led to Lion touchdowns.
Jordan Ellis (31 rushes, 146 yards) and Chance Thrasher (191 passing yards, TD) had big offensive games, while Brandon Johnson helped seal the outcome by recovering a Hawks onside kick.
Peachtree Ridge now sits at 4-0 overall and 2-0 in Region 7-AAAAAA after handing Mill Creek its first loss.
“You know what it does to the winner and you know what it does to the loser,” Fleetwood said of the two previously unbeaten teams’ matchup. “We need to stay grounded now. I’m somewhat not surprised (we won) because the focus these kids have shown since the spring and summer. Now we’ve got to turn it up even more.”
Night of mistakes
The extra point will be the focal point.
Mill Creek’s missed PAT with 1:39 left Friday night was the difference in a 31-30 loss to Peachtree Ridge, but it was just the final chapter in a night of mistakes by the host Hawks. Had they eliminated some earlier issues, they may not have needed the crucial extra point.
“There were many more things before the extra point,” Mill Creek head coach Shannon Jarvis said. “I know everybody will point to that, but that’s just one of many things that add up to that. There were a bunch of things throughout the game that put us into that situation.”
The list of the Mill Creek problems was long.
It started with 15 penalties for 114 yards, including seven for illegal procedure. The Hawks also threw an interception on their first offensive play and muffed a punt in the second half, both leading to Peachtree Ridge touchdowns. Those turnovers gave the Lions possession at the Mill Creek 20 and 12, respectively.
With the score tied at 24, Mill Creek shanked a 6-yard punt that gave Peachtree Ridge the ball at the Hawks’ 45. The short field again put the Hawks’ defense in a bad spot, and resulted in the game-deciding TD.
Despite the mistakes, Mill Creek kept fighting back and got a 77-yard TD pass from Daniel David to Devozea Felton with 1:39 left that cut the gap to 31-30. That was a positive, as was the play of Carter Governale, who ran for 85 yards and two TDs on 14 carries.
The Hawks’ defense didn’t play bad, either, it just faced short fields much of the night. Gary Holness had two tackles for losses and Ben Otiwu had a big sack for Mill Creek.
“I was pleased with our kids’ determination, especially that last touchdown and Devozea breaking some tackles to score,” Jarvis said. “I thought our defense was resilient all night. I was pleased with the effort defensively. They ended up having to defend a short field a few times because of turnovers, but they went out there and fought the whole game. There were a lot of positives, but there were also some unforced errors that have got to be fixed. If not, we won’t come near the potential that this team has.”
Clinging to a seven-point lead and trying to run clock would seem to be an inopportune time for a team to give certain running backs their first carries of the game.
Yet, that is exactly what Dacula coach Tommy Jones chose to do during his team’s two fourth-quarter possessions during Friday’s 14-7 win over Grayson, especially with quarterback Aaron Grove and running back C.J. Mayes combining for 20 of the team’s 22 carries in the first half.
And while the Falcons’ defense still had work to do late, key runs by Kevin Ficklin and Lawson Cook, who had not carried the ball in each of the first three quarters, helped them leave the Rams critically less time to work with late.
“Grayson’s so good on defense,” Jones said. “We were just trying to find some space to move the football. It was a battle on both sides with two very physical, hard-nosed football teams.”
The two onside kicks Grayson attempted on each of their two kickoffs on Friday’s loss were by design.
However, Rams coach Mickey Conn said the two attempts were based on a specific strategy designed to try to take advantage of Dacula’s kick return alignment and is not part of the team’s regular coverage.
“It was something that we saw (on film), and they (Dacula) have some really good return guys,” Conn said. “We tried to take advantage of what they were giving us. … We should’ve fell on (the ball) two times. They can’t go kick the ball around. They have to go get it.”
The Rams did have a chance to recover both kicks, particularly the first one, which bounced off several players on both teams before coming to rest at the Dacula 27.
But the Falcons managed to come up with both kicks to deny Grayson needed momentum.
Shavers running wild
Shiloh’s Charles Shavers went in to Friday’s game as Gwinnett County’s leading rusher.
The junior made sure he held onto that position against South Gwinnett.
Shavers rushed for 222 yards on 25 carries and scored three touchdowns in the Generals’ 21-14 win.
Shavers has rushed for 643 yards with nine touchdowns this season. Not bad for the first-year starter.
He began the season by setting a school record with 247 yards and five touchdowns. He rushed for 120 yards last week to give him three out of four games with 100 yards rushing or more.
Six for six
North Gwinnett head coach Bob Sphire’s up-tempo offense has produced some prolific passers in his career, but what happened on Friday night was a real rarity for the veteran coach.
Hayden Sphire finished the night with 215 yards on 13 of 16 attempts, including six touchdown passes, something the senior Sphire recalled only seeing one other time.
“When I was in Kentucky, I had the record-setting quarterback up there and I think he threw six in one game,” Sphire said. “I haven’t seen anything like that since coming here.”
Hayden threw three of his TDs to Caleb Scott, while Nate Brown hauled in two more. His final scoring pass went to Joshua Imatorbhebhe. What made the achievement even more remarkable was that all of Hayden’s playing time was in the first half.
— Sports Editor Will Hammock, staff writers Brandon Brigman and David Friedlander and staff correspondent Scott Smith contributed to this report