HOSCHTON — Norcross’ football team attempted passes on its first 10 offensive plays, allowing Myles Jackson to get Friday night going with a series of pass rushes.
The Mill Creek senior and his defensive teammates brought pressure from the start in a 30-10 victory, energizing the Hawks early and creating short fields for the offense, which got 179 rushing yards and two touchdowns from Chancellor Lee-Parker. Parker Wroble had six catches for 133 yards and two TDs, and finished with 228 all-purpose yards on the day he committed to Air Force.
“I thought our defense really set the tone with physicality in the first half,” Mill Creek head coach Josh Lovelady said. “I thought our defense made some short fields for us that allowed us to execute and do some things. The guys up front played well and we were able to run the ball and get some play action off of it. … The whole D-line was really getting a lot of pressure. Our guys really put some pressure on the quarterback to make him throw a little quicker. And obviously you’ve got to have coverage. You’ve got to have both.”
Jackson, a UCLA recruit, led the way. He finished with 10 tackles (two for losses), 2 1/2 sacks and six quarterback hurries.
“I feel the defense played with a whole lot of intensity,” Jackson said.
The defensive end’s efforts helped the Hawks (2-1) rebound from a tough loss a week earlier to rival Dacula.
“I think the whole team was noticing (Jackson’s play),” Lovelady said. “I think the team energy was feeding off Myles. He’s one of our alphas on our team. Last week in practice in a leadership role, he really took that and said let’s do something about it, in practice and in the game. He was very verbal about it as well as he went to work. You saw the product of it. The unique thing about Myles, and this is coming from an offensive line coach, he can go around you, he can go inside of you and he can go through you, too, because he’s so strong.”
He had help, too. Brayden Dudley had two tackles for losses and batted down a pass. Carson Howatineck shared a sack with Jackson and had two quarterback hurries, Noah Faircloth had three quarterback hurries and R.J. Smith had six tackles. In the secondary (which was without Appalachian State commit Ronald Clarke), Colin Williams had five tackles and a pass breakup, Emon Hill had four tackles and three pass breakups and Caleb Downs had four tackles, one for a loss.
Norcross (0-2) got its only touchdown in the third quarter on a 20-yard pass from Mason Kaplan (17 of 34, 193 yards) to Jaylen Green.
“We kind of knew when they were going to pass because we were keying all week off of stances and things like that,” Jackson said.
Thanks to the defense, Mill Creek needed to cover just 45 yards on its first scoring drive. Wroble took a swing pass and sprinted down the Norcross sideline for a 34-yard TD on the drive’s fourth play.
Norcross answered with a 24-yard field goal after a long drive that would have been a three-and-out, but a Mill Creek celebrated with a dance that drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and extended the drive. Flags flew throughout the night — Norcross was flagged 20 times for 125 yards (an astonishing 16 penalties of five yards for offsides or illegal procedure) and Mill Creek had 11 penalties for 110 yards.
Lee-Parker scored on a 1-yard TD run — set up by his own 46-yard run — in the second quarter for a 14-3 edge that carried into halftime.
Mill Creek opened the third quarter with an 83-yard drive that featured four penalties on Norcross and a 37-yard pass from Harris to Wroble. The most costly flag was an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Brock Pellegrino’s 22-yard field goal. Lovelady took the first down and three points off the board, and Lee-Parker scored a TD on the next play, a 3-yard run.
The 21-3 edge was trimmed down with Norcross’ only TD on the next possession, but the visiting Blue Devils never got closer.
Romeo Pelham blocked a punt out of the end zone for a safety, and Mill Creek scored quickly when it regained possession. Wroble made a diving catch in the end zone from Harris for a 37-yard TD and a 30-10 edge. Harris completed 5 of 9 passes for 133 yards.
“It was bouncing back from a tough loss (to Dacula) and we know here at Mill Creek our schedule, every week is going to be a grind, and that’s the way we make it,” Lovelady said. “Iron sharpens iron. Here’s another case, Norcross and us are playoff-caliber teams trying to get better. Our kids responded. Still not as clean as I want it to be. We had some penalties. But we moved in the right direction.”
MILL CREEK 30, NORCROSS 10
Norcross 3 0 7 0 - 10
Mill Creek 7 7 7 9 - 30
Mill Creek: Parker Wroble 34 pass from Thurman Harris (Brock Pellegrino kick) 5:45
Norcross: Kellen Grave de Peralta 24 FG, 1:34
Mill Creek: Chancellor Lee-Parker 7 run (Pellegrino kick) 4:14
Mill Creek: Lee-Parker 3 run (Pellegrino kick) 7:45
Norcross: Jaylen Green 20 pass from Mason Kaplan (Grave de Peralta kick) 3:36
Mill Creek: Safety, Romeo Pelham blocks punt out of end zone, 9:36
Mill Creek: Wroble 37 pass from Harris (Pellegrino kick) 5:54
First downs 13 15
Rushes-yards 25-47 38-214
Passing yards 193 133
Comp-Att-INT 17-37-0 6-10-0
Fumbles-lost 2-0 2-2
Penalties-yards 20-125 11-110
RUSHING - Norcross: Jahni Clarke 8-44; Michael Porter 5-23; Harris Celata 2-1; Kaleb Jackson 2-(minus-1); Team 1-(minus-5); Kaplan 7-(minus-15). Mill Creek: Lee-Parker 24-179; Wroble 5-31; Donovan Journey 2-2; Harris 4-0; Team 3-(minus-8).
PASSING - Norcross: Kaplan 17-34-0, 193; Celata 0-3-0, 0. Mill Creek: Harris 5-9-0, 133; M.J. Patterson 1-1-0, 0.
RECEIVING - Norcross: Green 5-46; Justin Burks 4-40; Antwan Allen 3-69; Randy Smith 1-16; Zion Alexander 1-9; D’Andre Golden 1-8; Porter 1-6; Clarke 1-(minus-1). Mill Creek: Wroble 6-133.