Mill Creek Hawks (6-AAAAAAA)
Coach: Josh Lovelady
Last week: Beat Roswell 41-17
Marietta Blue Devils (3-AAAAAAA)
Coach: Richard Morgan
Last week: Beat Milton 38-24
Another chapter will be added to the young history of Mill Creek football this week with its first trip to one of the state’s most renowned high school stadiums. Northcutt Stadium, now renovated and with artificial turf, hosted its first football game in 1940, before World War II and more than 60 years before Mill Creek opened. Per Georgia High School Football Historians Association records, Marietta has played 1,026 football games in 110 seasons, compared to 182 in 16 seasons for Mill Creek.
While Marietta has a storied past in football, Mill Creek has enjoyed more football success in recent years — it made the Final Four in 2015 and 2016, while the Blue Devils haven’t reached that round since 1994. That said, sixth-ranked Marietta has surged the past few seasons with an influx of talent, giving the eighth-ranked Hawks underdog status in the Class AAAAAAA quarterfinal matchup.
“We just discussed that (with our players), and told them it’s final eight and all the teams are good,” Mill Creek head coach Josh Lovelady said. “Every team in here’s going to be good. But you know what? We’ve got a good squad, too. Playing teams that are more talented on paper has been done before at Mill Creek. We have that tradition at Mill Creek over the years. We’ve gone against people who are more talented on paper and we’ve come out on top.
“At Mill Creek, we have certain expectations of how we play, the way we play. That doesn’t deviate because of who we play, how big they are, how fast they are. In the past, we’ve shown that. So it’s good to have that tradition behind you.”
Marietta is loaded with top-tier college prospects, led by five-star tight end/defensive end Arik Gilbert, an LSU commitment, the No. 1 tight end nationally and the No. 2 player in Georgia. The 6-foot-5, 250-pounder is joined on offense by 6-4, 215-pound quarterback Harrison Bailey, a four-star recruit and a Tennessee commitment. Wide receiver Ricky White is headed to Michigan State, offensive tackle Jake Wray is Colorado-bound and running back Kimani Vidal is a Troy recruit. Bailey has thrown for almost 3,400 yards this season and both Gilbert and White are over the 1,000-yard mark in receiving yards.
The Blue Devils’ defense includes four-star defensive end B.J. Ojulari (LSU) and three-star safety Rashad Torrence II (Florida).
By comparison, Mill Creek has one senior committed to a Power Five school — defensive end Myles Jackson to UCLA. Jackson was among the defensive standouts last week, recording his 10th sack of the season. Teammates R.J. Smith (three quarterback hurries), Christian McIntyre (10 tackles, two for losses), Hassan Tutson (eight tackles, two sacks), Caleb Downs (seven tackles, one for loss) and Brayden Dudley (sack) also stood out in a convincing win at Roswell.
McIntyre also is a big cog in the Hawks’ running game — he had four pancake blocks at bull back against Roswell. Bryce Hancock (10 pancakes), Ryan Stokes (five pancakes) and C.J. Easley (two pancakes) also had high blocking grades in the second round, paving the way for Chancellor Lee-Parker’s 212 yards on only 16 carries. Lee-Parker now has 1,754 yards and 22 touchdowns on the season.
Last meeting: First meeting
Location: Northcutt Stadium, Marietta