Staff Photo: John Bohn Brookwood running back Josh Brown (28) runs the ball while pursued by Mill Creek defensive back Jordan Sylvain (22) during the first quarter of Friday's game.
SNELLVILLE -- Brookwood's Jamaal Cole hurt his knee in Friday's game against Mill Creek, but you never would have noticed with his performance.
The Bronco senior rushed for three touchdowns, including the game-clincher in the final minute as host Brookwood defeated Mill Creek 31-21.
"He's a tough kid," Brookwood head coach Mark Crews said. "He keeps coming back."
Brookwood surrendered 311 yards rushing in its season-opening loss to last year's state runner-up Walton. The Broncos' defense didn't fare much better against Mill Creek, allowing 275 yards. Jacorey Lewis rushed for 170 yards and a third-quarter TD to put the Hawks ahead 14-10, but Lewis sat out the rest of the game with an injury.
"It changed everything for us when he's out," Mill Creek head coach Shannon Jarvis said.
The Broncos (1-1) finally found a way to stop the Hawks' offense late in the game. A 10-yard loss on a reverse put Mill Creek in long yardage situations at the Broncos' 45 and Brookwood stopped the visitors on downs with 4:20 left in the game.
"I had to go for it because we hadn't stopped them all game," Jarvis said. "We were trying to win the football game."
With Cole hobbling from his injury, Josh Brown carried the Broncos to the Mill Creek six-yard line. Cole scored his third TD of the half to seal the game with 44 seconds left.
"It was just a toss pitch and the O-Line opened it up for me," Cole said.
Brown finished with 225 yards rushing on 22 carries, while Cole had 89 yards on 15 carries.
"Jamaal got hurt tonight and that gave Josh the chance to be the featured back and he certainly took advantage of it," Crews said. "I was proud of Josh."
Brookwood took the game's opening series to the Mill Creek 19 before a chop block penalty stalled the drive. Brandon Morrow kicked a 40-yard field goal to give the Broncos a 3-0 lead.
Mill Creek (1-1) was forced to punt on the next series and Kyrin Priester took the punt 80 yards for a touchdown to give the Broncos a 10-0 lead with 5:16 left in the first quarter.
"Oh, that was huge," Crews said. "What a play. Did you see that move he put on them?"
Brookwood's Mitch Hotop had a 70-yard punt with the help of a nice roll after a high snap to pin the Hawks on their own one.
Mill Creek drove 96 yards to the Brookwood 3-yard line where DeVozea Felton fumbled at the two and Colin Cotter recovered. It was the second lost fumble for the Hawks, who also lost the ball on the previous drive.
Brookwood drove to midfield before a holding penalty and a sack stalled the drive.
"We had penalties that killed us in the first half," Crews said.
Mill Creek needed just three plays to finally get on the scoreboard. Daniel David threw a 51-yard TD pass to Michael Cheeks to make it 10-7 with 5:10 left in the half.
David was 13 of 24 for 227 yards despite receivers dropping four balls.
Hotop, who had five touchbacks on kickoffs, had a 50-yard punt to pin Mill Creek deep again. The Hawks drove 80 yards to the Brookwood 2, but had to settle for a 19-yard field goal attempt that failed to keep the game 10-7 at the half.
"We had a 96-yard drive and that drive. Those two drives we didn't convert," Jarvis said.
Mill Creek opened the second half with a 12-play, 79-yard scoring drive on all runs. Lewis got 58 yards on the series, including his one-yard score after Matthew Pursell recovered his second fumble two plays earlier. The TD put Mill Creek ahead 14-10 with 6:44 in the third quarter, but Lewis never played again.
The Broncos countered with Brown carrying the Broncos to the nine after a 29-yard run. Cole scored on the next play to put Brookwood ahead again 17-14.
Felton's 25-yard touchdown put the Hawks ahead 21-17 with 2:31 left in the third quarter. Felton finished with 73 yards on seven carries.
"It was kind of a barnburner there for a while," Crews said.
Cole scored his second TD after Brown carried the Broncos to the seven. Cole went around the right side and walked in the end zone to put Brookwood ahead again 24-21 with 8:24 left in the game.
Then the Broncos' defense led Matthew Price's eight tackles finally came up with a stop to end a Mill Creek comeback. Afolabi Laguda added six tackles, while Adam Ledford and Liam Trainor had five each.
"Our defense stepped up and got a stop when they had to," Crews said. "We still have work to do on defense. But I'm still proud of the kids for working hard and giving everything they had."