Posted: Monday, August 13th 2012 at 9:35am
Football 2012: Mill Creek presents intriguing mix of youth, experience
By Jeff Hart Staff
HOSCHTON -- Mill Creek football could almost be facing a glass-half-empty, glass-half-full situation heading into the 2012 season.
On one side the Hawks were just three plays from being 8-2 and making the playoffs in 2011 and return 11 starters. On the other side, the Hawks will have to replace three-year starter John Russ at quarterback from a team that was second in scoring in the rugged Region 7-AAAAA.
Coach Shannon Jarvis, who started the program and is now in his ninth season, said they are taking the optimistic approach.
“Well, we did lose a lot but we also have a lot of talent coming back,” he said. “I like our defense, which is a year older, and I think the offense should be balanced again this year. We lost three games in the final minute last year. Two years ago we won those games. If we can learn how to win those games this year, I think we’ll be right in the middle of things.”
Mill Creek returns its top rusher from last year in senior RB Jacorey Lewis and its top receiver in senior Matt Purcell. The defense is led by Division I defensive line prospect Kelsey Griffin, who led the team in tackles last and has narrowed his choices down to UGA and South Carolina. The defense also returns three of its top four linebackers from last year in seniors Patrick Dike and Brandon Holley and junior Michael Leonard.
The Hawks like to run a balanced attack on offense but may have to rely more on the ground game early in the season. The defense, meanwhile, likes to blitz and attack offenses.
Mill Creek can expect yet another tough schedule -- despite not playing a single game outside of Gwinnett County (the Hawks will not travel outside the county, while the only non-Gwinnett team they face -- Habersham Central comes to Hoschton). The Hawks open with non-region Dacula at home and open their region schedule two weeks later at home against rival Mountain View, one of the teams that knocked them off in the final minute last year.
“That was a game we would definitely like back,” Jarvis said. “It’ll be a big game again because it’s the region opener. I feel like we’ll be ready for them. But, every game in this region is tough. We’ve been right there every year and expect us to be again this year. Again, it may come down to how we finish those close games. That’s what we’re working on.”
They do get powers Norcross and North Gwinnett at home but will travel to Peachtree Ridge and Collins Hill in the season finale.
MILL CREEK: NEED TO KNOW
TEAM COLORS: Vegas Gold, Navy Blue & Cardinal Red
CURRENT REGION: 7-AAAAAA
HEAD COACH/RECORD AT SCHOOL: Shannon Jarvis, 9th year, 38-46
2011 RECORD/ ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 5-5
KEY LOSSES: QB John Russ, OL A.J. Ruechel, OL Zack Johnson, TE Joey Everett-St.Claire, WR Kyle Freiberger
OFFENSIVE STYLE: multiple/two-back -- Mill Creek likes to try to run a balanced attack, running to set up the pass.
KEY OFFENSIVE PLAYERS: Returns 6 starters, Sr. RB Jacorey Lewis, Sr. WR Matt Pursell, Jr. RB Carter Governale, Sr. OL Matt Kopp, Sr. OL John Troutman, Jr. Eric Ritland
KEY DEFENSIVE PLAYERS: Sr. DL Kelsey Griffin, Jr. LB Michael Leonard, Sr. LB Brandon Holley, Sr. DB, Brandon Harmon, Jr. LB Andrew Sciara
STRENGTH: Overall experience -- The Hawks return 11 starters from last year’s team, including leading rusher Jacorey Lewis. The defense should be much-improved over last year. The defense will be led by Griffin, who has narrowed his college choices to UGA and South Carolina.
QUESTION: Quarterback -- How will Eric Ritland handle the QB duties? Ritland will have the hard task of replacing three-year starter and standout John Russ.
KEY GAMES: The Hawks will not have to leave Gwinnett County the entire season. Mill Creek will open the season with two non-region foes in Dacula (Aug. 31, home) and Brookwood (Sept. 7, away) that reached the playoffs last season.
TRENDING: Five straight seasons of .500 or better records will be put to the test with young players at key positions, but the Hawks also have plenty of returning talent.
Aug. 31 vs. Dacula
Sept. 7 at Brookwood
Sept. 14 vs. Mountain View
Sept. 21 at Peachtree Ridge
Sept. 28 vs. Norcross
Oct. 5 at Meadowcreek
Oct. 12 vs. North Gwinnett
Oct. 19 at Duluth
Nov. 2 vs. Habersham Central
Nov. 9 at Collins Hill
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