Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan North Gwinnett quarterback Michael Haynes (13) delivers a stiff arm to Mill Creek defensive back Chris Dickhute (37) during high school football action at Mill Creek High School in Hoschton on Friday. North Gwinnett defeated Mill Creek 47-28.
HOSCHTON -- Mill Creek would like to forget the final two minutes of the first half in Friday's game.
The Hawks watched as their four-point lead over visiting North Gwinnett quickly turn into a 16-point halftime deficit.
The No. 8-ranked Bulldogs scored 20 points in the final minutes of the half and rolled to a 47-28 win over Mill Creek.
"I want to get out of here with a win before they take it out of our column somehow, some way," North Gwinnett head coach Bob Sphire said.
The victory puts North (5-1, 3-1 region) in a tie for second place in Region 7-AAAAAA with Collins Hill. The Bulldogs will play at Collins Hill in two weeks to decide the No. 2 seed in the region.
"Collins Hill is the next big game," North defensive lineman Dante Sawyer said. "This win showed where we need to be."
Mill Creek (4-3, 3-2) turned the ball over four times, including an interception returned 10 yards for a touchdown by Sawyer. North had fumble recoveries by Tony Bradford, Carter Cross and Bobby Young. The Bulldogs also stopped Mill Creek on fourth down at the 11 with 3:29 left in the game.
North quarterback Michael Haynes was 19 of 29 passing for 251 yards and three touchdowns. The senior also had 93 yards rushing on 19 carries.
"He had about as good a game as any quarterback I've ever had play," Sphire said. "He made so many key plays, key decisions to the the right guys at the right times. He made all the right choices."
Haynes completed passes to five different receivers, led by Nate Brown's six receptions for 86 yards and one touchdown and Caleb Scott's four caches for 89 yards and one TD.
"They all did a great job," Haynes said.
North reached the red zone twice and only came away with three points to start the game before the Bulldogs' offense got on track.
After Mill Creek's Jacorey Lewis scored on a 71-yard run, Haynes led North to its first touchdown with a 19-yard pass to Almonzo Brown.
The Bulldogs scored on their next three possessions to take a 30-14 halftime lead.
"That was huge," Sphire said. "I'm not sure I can tell you what happened. I look up and it's 30-14."
DeVozea Felton had nice 59-yard run to give Mill Creek a 14-10 lead with 4:12 left in the half. That was the last time the Hawks ever led.
Cam Lewis scored a 39-yard touchdown on third down. Felton fumbled for the second time and North needed just one play for Haynes to throw a 30-yard TD pass to Caleb Scott with 1:17 left in the half. After the PAT failed, North led 23-14.
Mill Creek fumbled the kickoff and Young recovered to set up the Bulldogs' next TD. Cam Lewis scored his second TD on a three-yard run. Lewis finished with 117 yards on 17 carries.
"That was good building a big lead," Haynes said. "We knew they were a second-half team."
Jacorey Lewis scored his second TD on a 52-yard run in the third quarter. Lewis is the county's No. 2 rusher and finished with 230 yards on 21 carries. Felton caught the two-point conversion from Daniel David to make it 30-22. David was 13 of 26 for 96 yards and one interception.
The Hawks' Kyle Nichols blocked North's punt to set up David's 15-yard touchdown run. After the two-point conversion failed, Mill Creek trailed 30-28. But that was as close as the Hawks would get to North.
"These kids aren't stupid. They saw the Norcross video. They know they were going to have to play 48 minutes," Sphire said.
North came back with D'Angola kicking a 26-yard field goal and then Sawyer intercepted a David pass and returned it for a touchdown with 6:27 to seal the game at 40-27.
Mill Creek's last chance to get in the game failed when the couldn't convert on fourth down at the North 11. Haynes had his third TD pass to Nate Brown on fourth down with 30 seconds left in the game.
"This is a big win with the region standings," Haynes said. "It's a signature win over a good team."