Norcross’ quarterback A.J. Bush (6) looks to pass to a receiver as North Gwinnett’s Anree Saint-Amour (92) attempts to make a sack earlier this season. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)
If recent history repeats itself, here’s how Friday's No. 7-ranked Mill Creek at Norcross football game will play out.
The Blue Devils will build a big first-half lead, Mill Creek will make a comeback in the second half and Norcross will hold on to win.
That’s the way the game between Norcross and Mill Creek has played out the last two seasons.
“I hope we can get up like we have in the past, but it’s going to be a game,” Norcross head coach Keith Maloof said.
Norcross (2-2, 1-1 region) is 7-0 all-time against Mill Creek, but the Hawks (3-1, 1-1) have narrowed the gap in recent years. In the last two years, the games have been decided by seven points or less. Prior to that it was two scores or more.
“Obviously, with a team as good as Norcross, it’s almost insurmountable to come back from such a large deficit,” Mill Creek head coach Shannon Jarvis said.
Norcross had a 27-7 first-half lead in 2011 and held on for a 41-34 win.
“It’s a testament to the Mill Creek program,” Maloof said. “They are not going to quit when they are behind.”
Last season, the Blue Devils were up 49-14 in the third quarter and held off Mill Creek for a 49-41 victory.
“If you get up, you have to continue to play hard for four quarters,” Maloof said. “In our league, a two- or three-touchdown lead isn’t good anymore. With these potent offenses, you can’t call the dogs off.”
That was evident last week. Mill Creek rallied in the final two minutes against Peachtree Ridge, but a failed PAT kept the game from going to overtime. It was the exclamation point on a night full of mistakes for the Hawks, including four turnovers.
“Everybody knows how it went down,” Jarvis said. “It’s going to help develop this football team. It was the result of us not doing our job. We had more mistakes last week than we had the whole year.”
The Hawks can’t afford another performance like that against defending state champion Norcross.
“I don’t think there’s extra motivation for this game,” Jarvis said. “Our focus is to correct non-forced errors.”
Mill Creek features a nice group of dynamic playermakers, led by quarterback Daniel David. The junior has thrown for 378 yards with five touchdowns. The Hawks have a three-headed monster at running back with Devozea Felton, Carter Governale and Johnathan Hawkins.
“They are very good on offense and move it around,” Maloof said. “They have playmakers and a quarterback that can get it to them.”
After a 1-2 start, Norcross had its most convincing win last week with a 38-3 victory over Duluth.
“We’re a team in progress and with the league we play in, we have to keep working and getting better,” Maloof said.
Running back Josh Boyd rushed for 121 yards for the second time and receivers Clinton Lynch and Chris Herndon have emerged as playmakers for QB A.J. Bush.
“You have to defend the whole field against them,” Jarvis said.
Norcross began the year ranked No. 1 in the state and No. 3 in the nation. But after losses to both the nation’s No. 1 team (Florida’s Booker T. Washington) and Georgia’s No. 1 ranked team (North Gwinnett), the Blue Devils are no longer ranked.
“They are very talented, fast and physical. It’s the same Norcross team as the past,” Jarvis said. “I think some people have discounted them, but they will be in the mix at the end of the year.”
MILL CREEK at NORCROSS
Mill Creek Hawks (7-AAAAAA)
Coach: Shannon Jarvis
Record: 3-1, 1-1 region
Last week: Lost to Peachtree Ridge 31-30
Norcross Blue Devils (7-AAAAA)
Coach: Keith Maloof
Record: 2-2, 1-0 region
Last week: Beat Duluth 38-3
Last meeting: Norcross won 49-41 last year
Directions to Norcross High School: From I-85, go west on Beaver Ruin Road to Buford Highway and turn right. At the next light, turn left on Langford Drive. Cross Peachtree Industrial Boulevard and turn left on Spalding Drive. School is on the left