SUWANEE — Half of the first quarter was barely gone and Mill Creek’s football team already threw an interception, fumbled a punt inside its own 10-yard line, had a field goal blocked and built a 10-point deficit.
It straightened things out — with boosts from special teams and a defensive touchdown — but struggled to finish off host Peachtree Ridge in an eventual 49-17 victory Friday night. The visiting Hawks, ranked ninth in Class AAAAAAA, saw their lead shrink to 35-17 going into the fourth quarter before tacking on a pair of late touchdowns.
Peachtree Ridge took advantage of Mill Creek’s rough start to build a 10-0 lead before the Hawks scored the next 35 points going into halftime. Two of the first-half touchdowns were long runs by Chancellor Lee-Parker, who finished with 182 yards on 18 carries.
“A real sloppy start,” said Mill Creek head coach Josh Lovelady, whose team faces No. 7 North Gwinnett next Friday. “It was a mixture. Peachtree Ridge came out with their hair on fire and did some good things scheme-wise. We didn’t take care of either side. Ball security was an issue. Defensively, it was tackling. The good thing is we settled in and got adjusted and bounced back.”
Brandon Cade (21 carries, 163 yards, two TDs) scored on a 58-yard run on the first possession for Peachtree Ridge (1-5, 0-2 Region 6-AAAAAAA). After Mill Creek (5-1, 2-0) fumbled a punt that gave the Lions’ possession at the 10-yard line, Albert Jang hit a 34-yard field goal for an early 10-0 lead.
Mill Creek had a field goal blocked on the ensuing possession, but Mill Creek got within 10-7 on a 47-yard TD run by Lee-Parker late in the first quarter. Just 21 seconds later, Tyler Reed intercepted a Peachtree Ridge shovel pass at the 3-yard line and trotted into the end zone for the first TD of his football career and a 14-10 lead for the visitors.
“We had been watching film all week and we knew it was going to be a tunnel,” Reed said. “I just made an inside move. … That was my first touchdown. That was crazy. I started freaking out. It was hype. It was very hype. It was definitely a momentum swing.”
Reed’s big defensive play sent the visiting sideline into a frenzy.
“That felt good for the team,” Mill Creek’s Khamari Glover said of Reed’s pick-six. “We came out slow and we scored and when he got that pick, it just hyped everybody up.”
After a slow start, Mill Creek’s special teams delivered the rest of the way as long returns brought prime field position. Parker Wroble had a 64-yard kickoff return and a 63-yard punt return for a TD that extended the lead to 21-10. Glover had punt returns of 58 and 27 yards, and a 43-yard kickoff return.
Lee-Parker had a 58-yard TD run and a Glover punt return set up Wroble’s 1-yard TD run for a 35-10 halftime lead.
Peachtree Ridge got a 69-yard TD run from Cade in the third quarter to get within 35-17, but Mill Creek scored twice in the fourth quarter. Glover’s 49-yard punt return set up his own 15-yard TD catch from Thurman Harris.
“I couldn’t do it without my blocking,” Glover said. “My blocking was really perfect. I just saw everybody getting blocked and I just went for the holes.”
The Hawks finished with a whopping 340 return yards.
“Jed Hodges, our special teams coordinator, does an outstanding job and our whole staff is committed to special teams,” Lovelady said. “He’s the lead on it. We got some big plays and it’s the unsung heroes, the guys blocking down field and being smart with blocks. With the rules, there’s none of this head hunter stuff going on. You’ve got to be smart and know when to position block people.”
Harris capped the scoring with a 4-yard TD run for the Hawks, who face a much bigger test next week in North.
“North Gwinnett’s going to be a huge challenge,” Lovelady said. “We’ll get about 24 hours to enjoy the win and then we’ve got to figure out what we did wrong and fix it.”
MILL CREEK 49, PEACHTREE RIDGE 17
Mill Creek 14 21 0 14 - 49
Peachtree Ridge 10 0 7 0 - 17
Peachtree Ridge: Brandon Cade 58 run (Albert Jang kick) 9:14
Peachtree Ridge: Jang 34 FG, 6:50
Mill Creek: Chancellor Lee-Parker 47 run (Brock Pellegrino kick) 1:28
Mill Creek: Tyler Reed 3 interception return (Pellegrino kick) 1:07
Mill Creek: Parker Wroble 63 punt return (Pellegrino kick) 9:04
Mill Creek: Lee-Parker 58 run (Pellegrino kick) 5:53
Mill Creek: Wroble 1 run (Pellegrino kick) 4:09
Peachtree Ridge: Cade 69 run (Jang kick) 4:11
Mill Creek: Khamari Glover 15 pass from Thurman Harris (Pellegrino kick) 8:53
Mill Creek: Harris 4 run (Nicholas Calabrese kick) 8:02
First downs 10 10
Rushes-yards 36-236 27-149
Passing yards 37 88
Comp-Att-INT 3-8-2 10-29-2
Fumbles-lost 1-1 1-0
Penalties-yards 4-45 10-73
RUSHING - Mill Creek: Lee-Parker 18-182; Donovan Journey 5-33; Joseph Robinson 3-9; Wroble 3-8; Jayvon Henderson 2-8; Harris 2-4; Brycen Williams 1-(minus-3); Team 2-(minus-5). Peachtree Ridge: Cade 21-163; Kobe Calhoun 2-3; Team 1-1; Elijah Rankine 1-(minus-2); Nick Best 1-(minus-4); Kyle Kingsbury 1-(minus-12).
PASSING - Mill Creek: Harris 3-7-1, 37; M.J. Patterson 0-1-1, 0. Peachtree Ridge: Kingsbury 10-23-1, 88; Best 0-5-1, 0; Calhoun 0-1-0, 0.
RECEIVING - Mill Creek: Glover 1-15; Tim Page 1-11; Wroble 1-11. Peachtree Ridge: Michael Hernandez 3-26; Cade 3-21; Rankine 2-27; Brandon Wright 1-9; Jamiu Williams 1-5.