CUMMING – After three stingy performances to open the year, the Mill Creek defense wasn’t the only unit keeping points off the board for the Hawks on Friday night.
Blocked field goals, stellar defense and timely big plays on offense all played a big role in the Hawks’ 38-10 win over the West Forsyth Wolverines. But no play loomed larger on the night than a blocked field goal by Zekai Wimby just before halftime which was scooped up by Zach Jollay and taken 97 yards for a score.
“(Wimby) is fearless,” Mill Creek coach Josh Lovelady said. “I have not seen him not lay out on a kick in two years. He always gives great effort and it’s not easy to lay your body out like that every time. But he told me tonight he was going to get one and he did. That play changed everything.”
The Hawks (4-0) got on the board first midway through the first quarter behind the strong leg of kicker Trace Butcher, who nailed a 47-yard field goal with room to spare. On their next drive, the Hawks took advantage of good field position, starting on the 50-yard line. After consecutive completions to Donovan Journey and Thurman Harris, Journey punched it in on a 1-yard run to give Mill Creek a 10-0 lead with just over four minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Mill Creek got its first blocked field goal late in the first quarter to keep the lead at 10-0.
The Wolverines (2-2) controlled much of the second quarter. After a 67-yard punt return by Caleb Downs put the Hawks in prime field position, they had a dropped pass in the end zone and a rare special teams miscue with a missed field goal. West Forsyth responded with a 10-play, 80-yard drive capped by a 25-yard score on a screen pass from Keegan Stover to Peyton Streko.
After a three-and-out by the Hawks, a big pass play from Stover to Ashton Van Horn put the Wolverines on the Mill Creek six-yard line with a chance to take the lead. A big stop by the Mill Creek defense forced the Wolverines to attempt a field goal, and Wimby’s block changed the momentum of the game.
“It was a great block by Zekai and I scooped it up and had great blockers down the field,” Jollay said. “Once I got it I had a pretty good idea I was going to score.”
Lovelady said he challenged his team at halftime to take advantage of the momentum shift by going out and scoring on the first drive of the second half.
“We were reeling a little bit and that block gave us a chance to pause and reset,” Lovelady said. “Our offense had missed some opportunities. We had the drop (in the end zone) and missed a field goal so we left some points on the field. So that’s what I said at halftime, let’s use this momentum to go score that first drive and put all the pressure on them.”
The Hawks did that with a drive capped by a 9-yard TD by Downs. Then the defense kept the momentum swinging in their favor with a stop on fourth-and-one in West Forsyth territory, and Journey provided the knockout with a 40-yard touchdown run on the next play.
From there the defense did what it’s done all season and kept a potent West Forsyth attack out of the end zone.
“The defense is playing fast and physical and we have all the momentum right now,” Jollay said.
Kevin Petraglia added a 28-yard field goal for West Forsyth and Mill Creek quarterback Hayden Clark connected with Brendan Jenkins for an 18-yard touchdown strike to cap the scoring.
Journey ended the game with 51 yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns, while Downs had 27 yards on three carries and a score. Clark completed 10 of 19 passes for 130 yards. Seven Hawks caught passes in the game led by two catches for 45 yards by Wimby. Stover finished 18-of-39 for 280 yards, while the prolific Wolverines’ rushing attack was held to just 40 yards on 27 attempts.
MILL CREEK 10 7 21 0
WEST FORSYTH 0 7 3 0
Mill Creek: Trace Butcher 47 FG 7:05
Mill Creek: Donovan Journey 1 run (Butcher kick) 4:08
West Forsyth: Peyton Streko 25 pass from Keegan Stover (Petraglia kick) 7:32
Mill Creek: Zach Jollay 97 blocked kick return (Butcher kick) 1:04
Mill Creek: Caleb Downs 9 run (Butcher kick) 9:17
Mill Creek: Journey 40 run (Butcher kick) 7:00
West Forsyth: Petraglia 28 kick 4:08
Mill Creek: Brendan Jenkins 18 pass from Hayden Clark (Butcher kick) :22