Mill Creek football — pretender or contender among the Gwinnett powerhouses?

RELATED: Catching up with Sandy Creek, the reigning Class AAAA champs

(This is part of the AJC’s “30 in 30″ series — with quick hits on top high school football teams across the metro area and state during spring football practice. We’re doing 30 football teams in 30 days. Click here for a master list. Hey AJC, what about spring sports? You know, the non-football sports? Go here)

Mill Creek coach Shannon Jarvis and fam (MillCreekFootball.com)

Mill Creek coach Shannon Jarvis and fam (MillCreekFootball.com)

Will Mill Creek’s football team be a contender for a berth in the state playoffs?

That’s the type of confidence and excitement I was hearing a few weeks ago when attending a few games of the wonderful Mill Creek baseball season (which ended in the state quarterfinals).

Some people say that Mill Creek’s football program is a sleeping giant among the Gwinnett County powerhouses. In the team’s six-year history, they have only playoff appearance. Could it happen again in 2010?

Where’s the root for this enthusiasm? It kicks of with 14 returning starters, including every one of Mill Creek’s skills players. The team’s best player may be fullback Tyler Cierski, who had 82 carries for 329 yards and four TDs. The 6-foot, 245-pounder has committed early to Maryland.

Wide receiver Brandon Hayman (6-3, 185) had 55 catches for 724 yards and four touchdowns last year as a junior. Austin Hagan (6-0, 250) may be Gwinnett County’s best “player” — not college prospect — along the offensive line, finishing with a stunning 45 pancake blocks last year.

Mill Creek coach Shannon Jarvis is also excited about TE/LB Cody Rediger, LB Taylor Coleman, QB John Russ, and DL Kelsey Griffin. Track star Devonte Lewis (5-9, 160), one of the Georgia’s fastest players, is poised to have a breakout season at RB.

North Gwinnett and Peachtree Ridge are the favorites for the Region 7-AAAAA championship. Collins Hill, Norcross and Mill Creek are expected to battle it out for the region’s final two playoff spots.

Team: Mill Creek Hawks

Spring Game: 4 p.m. Friday

Spring practice dates: Ends May 21

Last year’s record: 5-5

Starters lost: 8

Head coach: Shannon Jarvis

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22 comments Add your comment

Pecan

May 21st, 2010
11:54 am

Always pretty good younger teams. Never do much with the big boys.

ngdogdad

May 21st, 2010
1:56 pm

I have coached in the GFL for another association for the last 5 years and have been affiliated with that associations high school program for about the same amonut of time. Seeing both the youth and high school levels at Mill Creek every year, it is hard for me to understand how they are so good at the youth level but can never fill that level of expectations at the next level. This is saying something for Coach Dollar at the 8th grade youth level.

wishfulthinking

May 21st, 2010
5:24 pm

It would be nice to see but the coach has made this team too complicated. They have everything – talent, facilities, money, HUGE enrollment – but I think between the politics and lack of a good coach they will go nowhere. If they had Tim Hardy from Mountain View they would contend every year. He’s a class act and knows how to coach. Prove me wrong.

TarHeelBred bleeds TarHeelBlue

May 21st, 2010
8:58 pm

“Mill Creek football — pretender or contender among the Gwinnett powerhouses? Will Mill Creek’s football team be a contender for a berth in the state playoffs?”

I’d hate to say it, but right now I’d have to say that Mill Creek kind of fits the definition of a pretender, of sorts. Since having the best season in their brief existence and finishing the regular season 7-3 and qualifying for the playoffs in 2007, the Hawks followed with a 6-4 outing and missing the playoffs by one game in ‘08 and going 5-5 and missing the playoffs by two games in ‘09. A really interesting fact during that stretch is that Mill Creek hasn’t beaten a playoff-bound 7-AAAAA team since beating Peachtree Ridge in 2007. On the flip side, the Hawks haven’t lost to any team with a lesser record then themselves in the 7-AAAAA standings in the same stretch, either. That’s really interesting that the team hasn’t beaten any team in the region with a better record since 2007, usually getting dominated by playoff-bound 7-AAAAA teams and haven’t lost to any team in the region with a worse record, usually dominating the three or four 7-AAAAA teams below it in the standings.

I went to GeorgiaPrepCountry.com and looked over some stats for the Hawks in 7-AAAAA play over the last seasons and found some interesting numbers that speak to exactly where they stand as a program. Since beating a playoff-bound Peachtree Ridge 17-10 in 2007, the Hawks have lost to 7-AAAAA playoff-bound teams by a combined score of 36-199, being shutout in four of those games and losing by an average of 28-5, the only exception being a 31-7 loss in 2009 to a Norcross team that also missed the playoffs. In the same stretch since beating Peachtree Ridge in 2007, Mill Creek has feasted on 7-AAAAA bottom feeders by a combined score of 357-76, registering four shutouts and winning by an average score of 40-8 against the bottom four or five teams below them in region play.

Losing seven straight games to playoff-bound 7-AAAAA teams by margins in which they were almost totally dominated and winning eight of nine games over non-playoff teams by dominating margins says that the Mill Creek football program is planted firmly in mediocrity as they head into the 2010 season. The almost total failure to show up in big games against 7-AAAAA playoff contenders says that the Hawks are not only not getting up for big games but in most instances are not even showing up at all. If the Hawks want to return to the playoffs, they’re gonna have to get up for the monster games against the teams ahead them in the standings like North Gwinnett, Peachtree Ridge, Collins Hill and even Norcross and not just the roadkill teams that they seemingly know how to stomp senseless.

The Hawks domination of the bottom feeders in 7-AAAAA over the past three seasons says that cupboard is far from bare in the program. There is plenty of talent to work with in the district and with a district that encompasses an area of such affluence as Hamilton Mill the community support is there in terms of financing and parental involvement. The youth programs that feed into the varsity teams in the district also look to be very competitive which makes the Hawks’ lackluster performances against playoff-bound teams in 7-AAAAA over the last couple of seasons somewhat all the more puzzling.

“Some people say that Mill Creek’s football program is a sleeping giant among the Gwinnett County powerhouses.”

Mill Creek is definitely a program with quite a bit of potential as the inconsistency between the poor performances against 7-AAAAA playoff teams and the exceptional performances against 7-AAAAA non-playoff teams show that the Hawks have the potential to grow into a perennial playoff contender with the right leadership that can harness all of the resources available to the program to produce better results against those playoff and region title contenders. It’s not fair that the expectations are so high for a program after only its sixth year of existance when many expansion programs, some of which have gone on to become perennial contenders for state titles, historically have struggled alot more mightly in their sixth seasons than the Hawks did at 5-5 last season. Nevertheless, expectations are unreasonably high with all of the resources being thrown at a program in a highly affluent neighborhood and highly competitive region like Mill Creek and despite the program still being relatively new it is still very disturbing that the Hawks have fared so exceptionally poorly against the top four teams ahead of them in the standings in the last couple of seasons.

With Peachtree Ridge winning a share of the AAAAA state title in only its fourth year of existence and returning back to the state title game to coming within five points of their second AAAAA state title, two years later, in only their sixth year of existence and Mill Creek beating the defending AAAAA state champs and making the playoffs in their fourth year of existence, expectations are justifiably unreasonably high for a seventh-year program. After winning seven games and earning their first playoff berth in ‘07, the Hawks look to be slowly sliding in reverse, winning six in ‘08 and five games in ‘09, going backwards in a region that despite the addition of perennial Gwinnett County AAAAA doormat Meadowcreek, could be somewhat more competitive in the future depending on how Mountain View, which doesn’t look to be your father’s expansion team, handles the transition to Class AAAAA competition (they won’t be going 8-1 this year, but won’t be total pushovers, either) and with the hiring of Corey Jarvis at Duluth, who helped to build the MLK Lions into a 2-AAAAA state power. Bottom line is that Mill Creek has to keep dominating non-playoff teams (better get those licks in on Duluth while you still can and when is that Meadowcreek game again?) and start showing up to play to win and stop being embarrassed to get at least one or two against the perennial top four if they want to get back to the playoffs. There’s way too much talent and resources in the Mill Creek program for the Hawks to be losing by scores of 7-31 (Norcross), 3-30 (North Gwinnett), 0-28 (Peachtree Ridge), 0-35 (Collins Hill) in games of such magnitude against region contenders.

MC Booster

May 21st, 2010
9:02 pm

Largest enrollment in the state. Just based on the law of averages and the number of athletes based on sheer numbers this program has underachieved. Coach Jarvis needs to have a big year with the team or move on

TarHeelBred bleeds TarHeelBlue

May 21st, 2010
9:16 pm

wishfulthinking

May 21st, 2010
5:24 pm
“It would be nice to see but the coach has made this team too complicated. They have everything – talent, facilities, money, HUGE enrollment – but I think between the politics and lack of a good coach they will go nowhere. If they had Tim Hardy from Mountain View they would contend every year. He’s a class act and knows how to coach. Prove me wrong.”

Prove you wrong? How about show you’re right? I saw a few of their games last year. Very impressive offensive wizardry for a first-year program. Sure, they were a first-year program that went 9-1 against JV competition and other first-year programs, but 9-1 and an ability to move the ball down the field while playing a little bit of defense for any first-year football program anywhere is still something that gets your attention and shows that with the skills that he has, that guy (Tim Hardy) probably has a helluva future in coaching.

wishfulthinking

May 21st, 2010
10:04 pm

TarHeel, I can’t tell if your knocking me or agreeing with me so I’ll hope you are agreeing with me. I saw every Mountain View game and many Mill Creek games and have to say Coach Hardy is a class act and one heck of a coach. He coaches decipline and pride. True, they did play a mostly JV schedule but did not act like a new program with many first time players. They had plenty of youngsters on that team but it did not look that way. They did slam Mill Creek’s JV 31-0 and, for any team, that was impressive. My knock on Javis is he is just too complicated. Most offensive plays just end up as running plays with their QB. They have a horse in Cierski and should have had more balance. I think Mill Creek could have used a QB like Charlie Brower at MV who I’m told was not wanted at MC because of politics. MV has several other skill players that would have made MC stronger but were looked down on because of politics. The only thing they don’t have at MV is size. That will come.

I am a Mill Creek parent and would love to see them become a perennial power but I don’t see it happening with Jarvis and that staff. They think and act big time but just aren’t. I wish they were. I would have loved to play for Mill Creek with all those resources but only if they Had Hardy as a coach!

On a side note, Mill Creek DOES have the best swimming coach in Rick Creed but I know that’s not what we are discussing. Just had to get that in!

Vince

May 22nd, 2010
7:25 am

Any school that has 4000+ students should be a contender every year. Oddly, schools with half that enrollment have beaten Mill Creek almost every year….such as Dacula.

now that's funny

May 22nd, 2010
11:17 am

Wow, when Mill Creek goes to the playoffs this year everybody on here will be singing the praises of the coach. I’m proud of the way the school and community have been loyal to the coach and program. Hang in there coach, these comments come from a minority.

MC??

May 22nd, 2010
1:04 pm

Mill Creek needs to simplify its offense and control the clock. This will give the defense the rest they need to perform. The defense spends way too much time on the field. Move the ball and control the clock. Eighth grade does it every year. Something they should have been doing for some time but do not. I agree with an above poster that they make things much too complicated. If coached properly Mill Creek has no excuses this year. The majority have been waiting long enough and are tired of the same old result year after year.

SportsFan31313

May 22nd, 2010
1:49 pm

Mill Creek is not a Contender in Region 7-AAAAA nor against any other Region in the State. Their last six years speaks volumes as to their contention. Lets see what happens this year. Right now they are a Prentender.

mcorbust

May 22nd, 2010
8:19 pm

The 8th grade coach has gone off for a different job. If he left his playbook behind, pick it up and brush it off and use it. It works! KISS. Keep It Simple S*****

SouthGARules

May 22nd, 2010
10:31 pm

Congratulations to Mill Creek’s daddy, Collins Hill for winning the Directors Cup for AAAAA. Collins Hill was the only public school to win. Marist (AAAA), Westminster (AA) , St Pius (AAA) & Wesleyan (A) were the other winners in their respective classifications.

TarHeelBred bleeds TarHeelBlue

May 23rd, 2010
1:54 am

wishfulthinking

May 21st, 2010
10:04 pm
“TarHeel, I can’t tell if your knocking me or agreeing with me so I’ll hope you are agreeing with me.”

wishfulthinking, I’m very much agreeing with you on Tim Hardy and the Mountain View football program. While most first-year programs often struggled to get through warm-ups, the Bears were putting on offensive exhibitions and playing like an established program that had been in existence for many years. In many of the games I witnessed at Mountain View, the players played like they had been together for some years and not like they were playing in a first-year program carved out of parts of two different school districts.

I know that they put together a 9-1 record against mainly JV squads and other first-year teams, but their play in their first year in existence makes me think that they won’t be as much of a pushover in their first year of AAAAA play in of all regions, 7-AAAAA, as one would think a new program usually would be. I guess that in their specific case, it’s never too early to get off on a winning track, but it’ll be very interesting to see how they perform and handle the transition into AAAAA play. Like I said before, they definitely will NOT go 9-1 in their first year in Region 7-AAAAA play, but opposing teams won’t be marking them down as an almost virtual week-off scrimmage against lesser competition and an automatic victory, either. A situation that is and has been very rare for first and second-year programs almost any and everywhere at anytime.

McQueen

May 23rd, 2010
11:00 am

Let’s remember where you are playing. This is the toughtest division in Georgia. (7/8) What do you think the others are saying?

MC??

May 23rd, 2010
11:09 am

The largest school in GA should do just fine in region7 by now. I think they are saying that we are a pretender.

Don KeBallz

May 23rd, 2010
1:58 pm

The players on this years MC team will be the first to have all been coached by Rod Dollar and his talented 8th grade staff. Over the past 4 years his teams won the 8th grade county championships or finshed runner up. Using a ball control running game and a GATA attitude his team has simply dominated the county football scene. Not complicated but oh so effective.Last years teams went 24-0 in the GFL! Politics play a part in all HS programs but the the Russ family reunion show on Friday nights at MC are getting old.Its time to put up or shut up as MV is in the rear view mirror and coming up fast. Remember objects are closer than they appear !!! Go Hawks !!

MC??

May 23rd, 2010
5:58 pm

It’s amazing how everyone feels the same way yet it continues.

SportsFan31313

May 24th, 2010
2:40 pm

McQueen,

What are you referring to when saying 7/8 are the toughest in the State?

MC Supporter

May 24th, 2010
6:23 pm

Go head MC, if you are pretenders KEEP UP THE F*** good job. Let’s go out there this year and kick some high school ASS!

MC??

May 24th, 2010
6:42 pm

That makes no sense to me

MCHS

August 3rd, 2010
9:43 pm

Mill creek is full of young talent such as FS #23 Evan Cavaliere, CB #16 Toby Guinn, LB #44 Taylor Coleman and many others… this is gunna be the year.