I am so looking forward to being back under the lights Friday night on GPB. The cool, crisp air (hopefully), the smell of the grass, the bands blasting, the anticipation of the state playoffs beating in the hearts of all the young men suited-up for what they hope is a five-week gauntlet to win a state championship.

We start our journey at Mill Creek Community Stadium in Hoschton. After two straight seasons of state semifinal finishes, the 10th-ranked Hawks open the GHSA 7A playoffs at home hosting the West Forsyth Wolverines.

At 7-3 overall and the second seed out of Region-6 at 4-2, this has been a little bit of a rebuild season for Mill Creek after back-to-back undefeated regular seasons and region championships. The Hawks have gone 4-3 since starting the season 3-0 and having their 25-game regular season winning streak snapped with 16-13 loss vs. second-ranked Archer Sept 8th. Prior to that loss to Archer, Mill Creek had won 29 of 31 games with their only losses coming in the 2015 & '16 state semifinals.

All but the Hawks’ 23-19 season-opening win vs. McEachern in the Corky Kell Classic have been by at least two touchdowns. Two of Mill Creek’s three losses were by a field goal, that loss vs. Archer, and a last-second defeat to Mountain View with the lone exception a 35-21 defeat at #8 North Gwinnett.

This is the Hawks fourth straight playoff season and seventh overall under Coach Shannon Jarvis, who is now 93-63 in his 14 seasons as Mill Creek’s only-ever football coach. The Hawks have reached the quarterfinals or semifinals in four of those seven playoff seasons.

West Forsyth is also 7-3 overall and finished as the third seed out of Region-5 with a 3-2 league record. The Wolverines were on a three-game winning streak until dropping their regular season finale to rival South Forsyth 28-14, costing West Forsyth a share of the region title. But the Wolverines have won five of seven since starting the season 2-1 and went 3-1 in games decided by a touchdown or less with wins at Pace and Lambert and a home win over Dacula. That one close loss came to former Coach Adam Clack at Milton.

The Wolverines have done all this under first year head coach Shawn Cahill who left his assistant coach job at Lanier to take over the program when Clack left after three seasons.  Cahill’s got an interesting resume. He was a wide receiver for two national championship teams at North Dakota State and played pro football in Finland (who knew there was such a thing)? He was an assistant coach in California and back home for his dad in North Dakota before coming to Georgia a decade ago.

Cahill is coach of a program even younger than Mill Creek. This is just the Wolverines 10th full season and West Forsyth has reached the playoffs seven of the last eight years. They got as far as the quarterfinals under founding head coach Frank Hepler in 2011. 

This will be the third all-time meeting between Mill Creek and West Forsyth with the Hawks posting a 65-27 win in Cumming in 2014 and a 51-13 home win in 2015. The winner will advance to the second round to either play at Archer or host Meadowcreek.

For those of you into recruiting, here are the big-time college prospects to keep your eyes on Friday night. For Mill Creek there’s Safety Jonathan Gipson who is a 247 Sports Composite 3-star CB who is committed to South Carolina and leads the Hawks with 4 interceptions. Three-star OLB Shaka Heyward is committed to Duke and leads the team with 70 tackles. Three-star OG John Harris is committed to Virginia Tech and anchors an offensive line that has paved the way for 1,000-yard rusher Uriah Leverette.

For West Forsyth, keep an eye on 6-4, 215-pound Ben Bresnahan (he’ll be hard to miss). The 3-star TE is committed to Vanderbilt and leads the team with 46 catches for 637 yards receiving and 4 TD. 6-3, 330-pound tackle Blake Anderson leads the offensive line, is projected as a guard at the next level and has offers from Virginia and Ohio. He helps lead the way for QB Zack Burns who averages 199 yards of total offense per game and has been responsible for 18 TD.

So it should be a great GHSA first round playoff game and we invite you to be a part of it on GPB. It all starts at 7:00 p.m. with Jon Nelson and Nikky Williams and the All-Access Pass pre-game show. Then stick around for all the play-by-play action with me, my color commentator Tommy Palmer and Hannah Chalker on the sidelines.