Cameron Turley’s 64-yard touchdown pass to Ace Williams with 3:09 remaining gave Mill Creek some breathing room it hadn’t had since the first quarter, and the Hawks needed it as they held off a late McEachern rally for a 31-28 victory in the Class AAAAAAA quarterfinals Friday in Powder Springs.
Third-ranked Mill Creek will play at No. 1 Grayson in an all-Gwinnett County semifinal next week. The Hawks will be 13-0 entering the semifinals for the second consecutive season. Last year, they were knocked out of the playoffs with a 52-31 loss to Colquitt County, which saw its two-year championship reign end on Friday with a 49-21 loss to Grayson.
“I could not be more proud of our kids tonight,” Mill Creek coach Shannon Jarvis said. “Obviously for the ones of us that saw it, it was a slugfest from really the opening kickoff on … momentum shifts the whole game, and the resiliency of both teams. You’ve got to tip your hat to McEachern, especially to [quarterback Bailey] Hockman for making the plays he did. It was just a great game to coach in and a great game to be a part of.”
Mill Creek led 24-21 with just over three minutes left when it got the ball at its 36 after a 7-yard McEachern punt. Williams provided the decisive points on the following play.
Fourth-ranked McEachern (11-2) responded with an 11-play, 80-yard drive that took less than a minute and a half off the clock, ending with Hockman’s 4-yard touchdown pass to Quay Holmes that cut the lead to 31-28 with 1:41 to play.
Mill Creek recovered the ensuing onside kick at midfield. McEachern appeared to have the stop it needed after three Mill Creek running plays, but a personal foul penalty after the third one gave the Hawks a first down, and they were able to run out the clock.
Turley was 11-for-21 passing for 170 yards and two touchdown passes to Williams, who also scored on a 21-yard pass in the second quarter for a 21-14 lead. Joe Thomas had 119 of the Hawks’ 146 yards rushing.
Hockman was 22-of-39 passing for 377 yards and four touchdowns, including three in about a 10-minute span in the first half as McEachern came back from an early 14-0 deficit to force a 21-21 tie at halftime. McEachern’s E.J. Scott finished with eight receptions for 181 yards, and Brandon Smith had nine catches for 144 yards.
McEachern needed all of the passing yardage as it had no success running the ball against a Mill Creek defense that came in allowing just 28.6 yards per game rushing. The Indians had averaged 266 yard rushing in their past three games but were held by Mill Creek to minus-42 yards, including sacks and a couple of fumbles in the backfield. Holmes and Paris Brown, who ran for a combined 341 yards in a victory over Parkview last week, were held to 15 and 11 yards, respectively.
Mill Creek had a 14-0 lead less than six minutes into the game. The Hawks drove 66 yards in 12 plays on their first possession, taking a 7-0 lead on a 14-yard run by Edmond Graham. The Hawks got the ball right back at the McEachern 15 when the Indians fumbled on their first play from scrimmage. Thomas scored two plays later on a 15-yard run.
McEachern pulled even by the end of the first quarter on Hockman touchdowns passes of 20 yards to Brown and 34 yards to Smith.
It was close the rest of the way.
Mill Creek - 14-7-3-7 - 24
McEachern - 14-7-0-7 - 21
Mill - Edmond Graham 14 run (Brenton King kick)
Mill - Joe Thomas 7 run (King kick)
Mc - Paris Brown 20 pass from Bailey Hockman (Giovanni Dominguez kick)
Mc - Brandon Smith 34 pass from Hockman (Dominguez kick)
Mill - Ace Williams 21 pass from Cameron Turley (King kick)
Mc - E.J. Scott 67 pass from Hockman (Dominguez kick)
Mill - King 30 field goal
Mill - Williams 64 pass from Turley (King kick)
Mc - Quay Holmes 4 pass from Hockman (Dominguez kick)