Game: Mill Creek (10-1) at McEachern (7-4), 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: Mill Creek 23, McEachern 19 (Aug. 19, 2017)
All-time series: Mill Creek leads 2-0
Prediction: Mill Creek 24, McEachern 21
McEachern enters the second round of the state playoffs for the eighth time in nine seasons when it hosts Mill Creek in a Class AAAAAAA clash at Cantrell Stadium on Friday.
The Indians are coming off a thrilling double overtime victory over South Gwinnett last week, while the Hawks rolled past West Forsyth in first round.
McEachern is riding a five-game winning streak heading into tonight’s matchup, and coach Franklin Stephens credited last week’s win to the Indians’ coming together and working as a team in the second half of the season as the reason for the victory.
“Last week was a big team win for our program,” he said. “It was a culmination of the last six weeks, which has been a learning experience for our guys. We were inconsistent early against some really good teams and our record showed it.
“We were 2-4. Our guys could have folded and become individualized, but they came together. They’ve been working harder. We’ve had good practices and that’s translated to good games. We went into Friday’s game against good competition, and we weren’t shocked. The guys hung in there and found a way to win. It wasn’t easy or pretty, but the guys figured out how to win.”
Now, it they have to figure out another way to win against an opponent that has only one loss this season. A victory would put McEachern into the quarterfinals for the fourth time in six seasons.
“Mill Creek is a well-rounded, well-coached team,” Stephens said. “They have probably the best player we’ve seen all year, (defensive back Caleb Downs). They have a great combination of kids. Their linemen have a lot of size.”
McEachern looks to continue its win streak and it will need to limit mistakes.
“Maintaining our fundamentals and effort will be big for us,” Stephens said. “We need to cut down on penalties and eliminate big plays for Mill Creek. Our offensive line will need to be up to the challenge because there’s going to be a lot of blitzing going on.”
Both squads can score in bunches with the Indians averaging 33 points per game and the Hawks scoring 35.9.
Quarterback Bryce Archie has thrown for 2,225 yards and 24 touchdowns for McEachern. Archie also has five touchdowns on 73 carries for 339 yards.
Makari Bodiford is McEachern’s leading rusher, adding 142 carries for 696 yards and 12 scores. Kaleb Webb is averaging 132.4 receiving yards through 11 games and has 75 receptions for 1,456 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Mill Creek holds the edge defensively allowing 13.8 per game while the Indians allow 25.3.
“Mill Creek isn’t going to let you run the football,” Stephens said. “They’re a typical Gwinnett County school. They’re larger in person than they are on film. It would be great to find a way to win this game, and we’re going to play as hard as we can play to try and make that happen.”