Colquitt County's 30-game winning streak, which started with a 31-14 win over Mill Creek in the 2014 Corky Kell Classic, came to an end in the Georgia Dome on Saturday as the Hawks closed out a 34-27 victory in the 25th anniversary of the opening week showcase.
Mill Creek dictated the first half with a range of aggressive play calling and play action passing from quarterback Cameron Turley.
||Photo by Daniel Varnado_AJC
The Hawks' first big play came midway through the opening quarter on an option pitch from Turley to Edmond Graham that went for a 54-yard gain. With Colquitt County responsive to the speed of Graham out of the backfield, Turley was able to connect with fullback Mitch McEnaney as he slipped past the defense for a 12-yard touchdown.
"Honestly, we came in here wanting to establish the run," admitted Mill Creek head coach Shannon Jarvis following the game. "They [Colquitt County's defense] gave us some looks though where we had to open them up and we had to be aggressive on play action."
Mill Creek picked up 11 first downs in the first half, while Colquitt County struggled to sustain any offensive rhythm. Mill Creek's Joe Thomas capped off an 11-play, 80-yard scoring drive with 7:04 left in the half on a 1-yard touchdown run. Kicker Brenton King added two field goals in the final minute to push the lead to 20-0. The Hawks possessed the ball for 16:07 of the 24 minutes in the first half and outgained the Packers 248-76 in total yards.
As dominant as the Hawks were on both sides of the ball in the first half, Colquitt County answered in the third quarter. The Packers got on the board with a pair of Ryan Fitzpatrick field goals, while stifling Mill Creek to just nine yards of offense in the quarter.
"Our defense played extremely fast, with a bunch of new starters," said Jarvis. "They weren't phased by the tempo of Colquitt or the scheme. We had some busts [in our coverage], a couple of those touchdowns were busts, but we're going to get that fixed."
In the fourth quarter, Colquitt County quarterback Jay Saunders found Tory Ponder for a 34-yard touchdown pass that ignited the crowd and shrunk the deficit to 20-13. Less than two minutes later, however, it was Turley finding McEnaney on a 40-yard touchdown pass as he slipped past the coverage down the sideline to make it 27-13.
Saunders kept Colquitt County alive with a 54-yard touchdown pass to Xavier Powell with 6:37 left in the game. With plenty of time and a one possession game, Colquitt County's Brian Merritt sacked Turley to eventually lead to a fourth-and-14 and punt. The Packers took over on their 25-yard line with a chance to tie the game, but Victor Heyward picked off Saunders and returned it 13 yards to the Packers 19-yard line. On a critical third-and-10 call, Turley bought time and moved the chains with an 11-yard pass to Jack Plummer. On the next snap, Turley found Adrian Jackson for an 8-yard touchdown pass with 4:13 to play that made it 34-20.
"The greatest thing about this win was the resiliency," said Jarvis. "It was ugly at times but even when it got sloppy, the heart and execution was there. That's the most enjoyable part of coaching. For them to reap the benefits of all that hard work they have put in, any coach will tell you 'That's why we do this'."
Saunders threw a 67-yard touchdown pass to JJ Peterson with 2:42 left before Mill Creek ran out the clock with a game-clinching eight-play drive.