The rematch of the 2016 GHSA AAAAAAA quarterfinal ended just like the original with Mill Creek getting the best of McEachern with a rousing fourth quarter comeback. Quarterback Brady Longnecker hit Cole Wroble from 7 yards out to give the Hawks a 23-19 lead and win over the Indians.
Big plays dominated the first quarter. McEachern head coach Kyle Hockman played keep away from Mill Creek for the first 3 minutes and amassed a 13-0 lead. A pair of rushes by Paris Brown for 32 yards set up the first of two big runs from Malik Evans. The senior quarterback was barely visible behind the massive McEachern offensive line. He used it to his advantage breaking free for a 43-yard touchdown run. The Indians failed 2-point conversion attempt would come back to haunt them late in the game.
Mill Creek didn’t have an opportunity to respond because the flop kick from McEachern’s Myles Henderson was recovered by the Indians’ Jalen Thornton. Sophomore Isaiah Lee walked up under center instead of Evans. Lee is seen as the better passer of the two. He lived up to his billing firing a 34-yard strike to Ali Scott for a touchdown on the first play of the series.
The Hawks got their first chance to play offense and they already trailed 13-0. Longnecker and company ran into a stiff defense and punted after 3 downs.
McEachern’s’ third offensive drive wasn’t as productive as the first two but they moved the ball nonetheless. A quick punt by Evans was touched and stopped at the 1-yard line by one of the Indians special team players. What appeared to be a great play by the Indians turned into a great play for the Hawks. Senior defensive back Jonathan Gipson realized the ball was still in play, scooped it up and sprinted 97 yards for a touchdown.
Evans used his legs again to put some distance between the scores with a 41-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. By the half, Evans had gained 90 yards from the line of scrimmage. It was more than the first half production by the entire Mill Creek offense.
A dominant third quarter by both the Hawks offense and defense made it a 3-point game. The offense looked to its backfield to get it going. Senior running back Uriah Leverette rushed for 37 yards on 8 carries and Rafael Morales rushed for 30 more yards on 5 carries to setup the two scoring drives. Longnecker capped the first drive with a 10-yard pass to senior tight end Andrew Johns for a touchdown. Senior kicker Matt Campbell finished off the second drive with a 39-yard field goal.
McEachern appeared to have regained their spark on offense to start the fourth. Paris Brown rushed for 10 yards and senior Jaron Hull caught a pass from Evans for 26 more to move the Indians into Mill Creek territory for the first time since midway through the second quarter. Hull’s catch turned out to be the last first down as the drive was halted as the Hawks defense rose to the occasion.
Head coach Shannon Jarvis’ offense didn’t appear to be in a rush. The Hawks methodically moved the ball down the field mixing the run with the pass. Longnecker’s 42-yard pass to Austin Williams caught the Indians off-guard. Once inside the red zone, the Hawks offense kept rolling. Wroble’s touchdown catch was the icing on the cake.
The two missed extra points (two-point conversions) left the Indians in a deeper hole than a field goal could fill. McEachern needed a touchdown and Mill Creek knew it. Playing with their ears pinned back the Hawks allowed the Indians to gain a total of 3 yards in their last two offensive series.