HOSCHTON — Mill Creek quarterback Hayden Clark threw for three touchdowns and ran for another, and the Hawks rode a first-quarter barrage to a 40-3 Region 8-AAAAAAA win over Peachtree Ridge on Friday night.
The win secures the No. 3 seed for the Mill Creek (5-5, 2-2) in the region while the Lions (4-4, 1-3) will finish in fourth. Both teams are headed to the Class AAAAAAA state playoffs — Mill Creek plays at Roswell next Friday, and Peachtree Ridge travels to Milton.
“I was very proud of the way we played tonight, fast and physical in all three phases of the game," Mill Creek coach Josh Lovelady said. “Our defense set the tone early and gave us short fields. Because we’ve had so many injuries in these 10 weeks, we have a lot of experience.”
The game started ominously for Peachtree Ridge with fumbled snaps on two of its first three plays. After holding on downs, Mill Creek started its first offensive possession on the Peachtree Ridge 46. It took only three plays for the Hawks to score as on third down quarterback Hayden Clark kept the ball on the reach option and raced around the right end to score on the 27-yard run. The extra point hit the upright so the lead stood at 6-0.
Another Lions drive failed to net a first down and Mill Creek took over and drove to the Peachtree Ridge 12 where the drive stalled. Brock Pellegrino connected on a 29-yard field goal to increase the lead to nine.
Mill Creek added to its lead on its next possession, which came about as a result of a turnover. Caleb Downs stepped in front of the intended receiver and made the interception on the Peachtree Ridge 29. Tim Page then was the recipient of a blown coverage in the Lions secondary. Page ran a post on the left hashmark and Clark connected with the wide open receiver for the touchdown. Pellegrino also connected on a 47-yard field goal late in the first quarter to finish the tidal wave of scoring in the first 12 minutes.
Peachtree Ridge was able to get on the board early in the second quarter when Eddie Park connected on a 29-yard field goal.
Mill Creek extended its lead to 26-3 with just over four minutes left in the half when Clark connected with Downs on a flanker screen. Downs cut inside and ran untouched to the end zone for the score.
At half, the Hawks had posted 145 passing yards behind the arm of Clark and rushed for an additional 113. Peachtree Ridge compiled 82 yards passing and negative-two yards rushing.
The Hawks wasted little time building on their lead after half. Clark busted a 37-yard keeper around the right end to the Mill Creek 22. After a false start penalty backed Mill Creek up five yards, Clark found Page with a 27-yard scoring pass. The extra point increased the advantage to 33-3.
Joshua Battle rambled in from 18 yards for a touchdown late in the third to close out the scoring.
Mill Creek now turns its attention to the playoffs where Lovelady is succinct on where the Hawks’ mindset should be.
“It’s about us,” he said. “We’ve been tested by our schedule. We don’t need to make any team bigger than it is and we just need to worry about us.”
Mill Creek 40, Peachtree Ridge 3
Peachtree Ridge 0 3 0 0 – 3
Mill Creek 19 7 14 0 – 40
Mill Creek: Hayden Clark 27 run (Brock Pellegrino kick failed ) 9:00
Mill Creek: Pellegrino 29 FG, 4:24
Mill Creek: Tim Page 29 pass from Clark (Pellegrino kick) 3:52
Mill Creek: Pellegrino 47 FG, 1:06
Peachtree Ridge: Eddie Park 29 FG, 9:12
Mill Creek: Caleb Downs 64 pass from Clark (Pellegrino kick) 4:27
Mill Creek: Page 27 pass from Clark (Pellegrino kick) 9:40
Mill Creek: Joshua Battle 18 run (Pellegrino kick) 6:08