Archer has risen to the No. 2 ranking in Class AAAAAAA because of its defense. So it was no surprise that the Tigers came up with two big defensive plays in the final quarter to beat Mill Creek 16-10 in the second round of the playoffs at Archer Community Stadium.
“I told our kids, when their backs were against the wall all the way down the field those last couple drives, somebody had to find a way to make a play and get the ball back,” Archer coach Andy Dyer said. “Two huge plays.”
Archer will host Colquitt County on Friday in the quarterfinals.
Archer took a 16-7 lead with 4:57 left in the third quarter on a 41-yard pass from Carter Peevy to Jelani Baker. Mill Creek blocked the extra point and answered with a drive that led to Matt Campbell’s 51-yard field goal with 47 seconds left to make it a six-point game.
That’s when the Archer defense had to rise to the occasion.
Archer had its next possession short-circuited by a holding penalty and had to punt. Mill Creek took over at its own 18 and drove to the Archer 8. But on second down, Mill Creek’s pass was deflected by Colin Stein and intercepted by Tyler Roach at the 6.
“I was flowing toward the ball and Colin tipped it up for me and I finished the play,” Roach said.
Stuck deep in their own end of the field, Dyer went to some conservative play calling and punted it back to Mill Creek with 2:44 remaining.
“We’ve relied on our defense all year and we decided to put it in their hands,” Dyer said.
The Hawks started at the 44 and needed two plays to reach the 27. But on the next play Uriah Leverette had the ball stripped by Jordan Roman and Jalyn Phillips recovered for Archer.
“They were in our red zone and we had to come down and make a play and finish,” Phillips. “Jordan came up with the big strip and I was able to recover it. “
Roman recovered a fumble late in the first half to kill a late Mill Creek drive.
Archer (12-0) was able to run out the clock and set a school record for wins. Mill Creek finished 8-4, with two of those losses to Archer.
Archer’s defense set the tone early when they stripped Mill Creek kick returner Austin Williams and recovered at the 8. The Tigers settled for a 23-yard field goal from Michael Johnson to take the early 3-0 lead.
The Tigers scored again late in the first quarter on Keegan Strickland’s 6-yard run.
Mill Creek got back in the game with an 11-play scoring drive that was completed when Caden Cullins scored on a 2-yard keeper.
Archer’s offense was led by Peevy, who completed 18 of 29 passes for 169 yards and one touchdown. He was intercepted once, that coming at the end of the first half when Trey Turner came away with the pick at the 2.
Mill Creek’s offense was led by Leverette, who rushed 22 times for 96 yards.