When Mill Creek defensive back Jonathan Gipson broke on a pass in the second quarter and came away with an interception, he didn’t only see green grass in front of him. He also saw pizza.
Gipson’s interception turned into a pick-six and was the momentum-changing moment in Class AAAAAAA No. 2 Mill Creek’s 31-10 win over Archer on Friday.
As an incentive, the coaches buy pizza on Mondays when they score a defensive touchdown.
“I was watching the ball the whole time I was just trying to make a play,” Gipson said. “It was just green grass. I had to put my hand in the air. First touchdown of the year. It turned a lot of momentum. It set the tone for the team. We get pizza on Monday. It put a lot of spirit back in our team. Got back to the sideline and they were all hyped. It was good.”
Mill Creek coach Shannon Jarvis said, “Our defense kept us in the game. That’s why you’ve got to play great defense. To be a great football team you’ve got to play great on that side of the ball. Games like tonight, we had a couple of turnovers and they kept us in the game. They stood up every time they were called on.”
Mill Creek (3-0) was led offensively by quarterback Cameron Turley, who completed 9 of 19 passes for 157 yards with one interception. The Hawks ran for only 60 yards and had only one run of longer than 10 yards by a starter.
Archer (1-2) was playing again without starting quarterback Dillon Wayne, out with a shoulder injury. Sophomore Braylen Weems did an adequate job again; he completed 8 of 23 with two interceptions and 94 yards. Keegan Strickland rushed for 55 yards.
“Fumbles, interceptions … We counted on the sideline and we had eight plays in a row of missed assignments,” Jarvis said “We will not win at all doing that. We’ve got to get that fixed. ... Maybe I need to buy pizza for the offense."
Mill Creek scored on its second possession. The Hawks drove 58 yards and finished the drive when Anthony Presto scored on a 7-yard run.
Archer answered by driving to the Mill Creek 17 before settling on a 41-yard field goal by John Bluse that cut the lead to 7-3.
Mill Creek quickly got in position to score again after Jack Plummer returned a punt 42 yards to the 20. On the next play quarterback Cameron Turley threw a strike to Ace Williams for a 20-yard touchdown.
The Mill Creek defense appeared to have the offense set up for another easy score when Matthew Winston intercepted a pass and took it the 17. But two plays the Hawks fumbled and Archer’s Malik Sproles recovered.
Archer’s good fortune didn’t last long. On the third play, Sproles had a reception ripped from his grasp by Jonathan Gipson, who returned it 25 yards for the pick-six score, giving Mill Creek a 21-3 lead.
Mill Creek tacked on a score with 53 seconds left in the half. Senior Brenton King liked up to try a 51-yarder, but the Hawks were penalized for illegal procedure. After the 5-yard markoff, King booted an effortless 56-yarder that would probably have been good from 60 yards. That gave Mill Creek a 24-3 lead.
The Hawks got their final touchdown on a 20-yard pass from Turley to Edmond Graham with 3:33 left in the third quarter.
Archer added a touchdown with 5:24 remaining. Weems scored on a 3-yard run to complete an eight-play 58-yard drive.
The game had a patriotic theme on Military Night at Archer. Representatives from the U.S. Army were on hand with some Humvees and 20 new recruits were sworn into service at a pregame ceremony. The bands even came together at halftime to play patriotic songs.