Coach Bob Sphire firmly pointed out the talent that Mill Creek had and when asked how he felt going into last Friday’s game against Mill Creek he said “We are just trying to have enough players to compete” .
Compete the North Gwinnett Bulldogs did and they used all the help that Mill Creek provided them plus that “talent”. North Gwinnett used four takeaways in the game and scored off all four of them.
After a scoreless first quarter the scoring picked up in the second quarter as the teams combined for 44 points in the second quarter. North Gwinnett was the owner of 30 of those points but not without Mill Creek putting the ball on the turf three times in the quarter and twice inside the final four minutes of the quarter.
The Bulldogs went on top with a field goal by Micheal D’Angola (2-2 on the day on FGAs) for a 3-0 lead. That lead would be quickly whipped out as Mill Creek’s Jacorey Lewis, who rushed for 232 yards and two touchdowns, raced 71-yards on the Hawk’s second play of the ensuing possession for a 7-3 lead. North Gwinnett came right back scoring on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Michael Haynes to Almonso Brown to re-take the lead 10-7.
Mill Creek, who has always shown a “never say die attitude” under Head Coach Shannon Jarvis, answered right back again when De’Vozea Felton raced and picked his way 52 yards for a touchdown and a 14-10 Mill Creek lead. That would be the Hawk’s last lead of the night.
North Gwinnett came back with an offense that has been labeled as needing a “playmaker” much of the season despite averaging 32.4 points per game coming in. Cam Lewis busted through several Mill Creek player en route to a 39-yard touchdown run that would give North Gwinnett the lead 17-14 with 1:42 remaining in the half.
For there things just got crazy as Mill Creek’s Felton fumbled on their next possession and North Gwinnett turned that into a touchdown on the next play when Haynes hit Scott in the left corner from 30 yards out and a 23-14 lead after a failed PAT attempt. On the ensuing kickoff Mill Creek would turn the ball over again on a fumble. North Gwinnett would line up again and cash in on the great field position closing it out with a Cam Lewis’ second touchdown run on the night for a 30-14 lead that they would take to the break.
In the third quarter Mill Creek began to show signs of not going away as Jacorey Lewis, no major offers, ripped off a 52-yard touchdown run followed by a Daniel David 15-yard touchdown run after a block punt gave the Hawks excellent field position at the North Gwinnett 31 and the fourth quarter began with North Gwinnett holding a 30-28 lead.
With the game still in the balance with a little less than seven minutes remaining in the fourth and Mill Creek, the biggest school in the state of Georgia with an enrollment up over 3,400, had a little piece of the momentum but were facing a third down and long on their own 16 -yard line. The Hawks went with a screen, problem was Junior defensive lineman Dante Sawyer, a converted running back who has offers from Ohio State and North Carolina, was not fooled as he batted the ball, caught it and raced ten yards for a North Gwinnett touchdown and a 40-28 Bulldog advantage and for all tense and purposes sealing the game.
Mill Creek showed fight driving to the North Gwinnett 11-yard line with less than four minutes remaining but North Gwinnett forced them to turn the ball over on downs ending any thoughts of a victory. North Gwinnett would stick the knife in a little deeper when Haynes hit Nate Brown for a 36-yard touchdown pass with less than thirty seconds remaining for the final margin 19-point margin of 47-28.
North Gwinnett’s Cam Lewis finished with 119 yards rushing and two touchdowns and quarterback Michael Haynes had 95 yards rushing while adding three touchdowns via the air.
North Gwinnett (5-1; 3-1) will face Habersham Central, who is new to Region 7-6A after Georgia’s reclassification this year, the lone non-Gwinnett County team in said region. Habersham Central (1-6; 1-4) bested lowly Meadowcreek (0-6: 0-4) 31-12 to earn their first ever Region 7-6A victory and first victory of the season. Mill Creek (4-3; 3-2) will travel to Duluth (2-4; 1-3), who was off this Friday, next week.
Gwinnett County (located in Georgia in the Metro Atlanta area) is home to the last two state champions at the highest level with Brookwood winning the crown in 2010 and Grayson in 2011.