By Noah Rubin
West Forsyth played four straight top-10 teams to open the season.
The Wolverines' latest opponent might have been the best of them all.
West, ranked eighth and inside the top 10 for the first time since 2012, fell to third-ranked Mill Creek on Friday, 38-10.
Mill Creek profited heavily off their special teams play, blocking two field goals, including one that was returned for a touchdown and gave the Hawks a 17-7 halftime lead.
West head coach Dave Svehla felt his team didn’t move on from the negative plays well, which allowed the deficit to continue to increase as the game wore on.
“I thought in the first half our kids played well,” Svehla said. “They played hard. Special teams — plain and simple — special teams. Unfortunately, that blocked kick returned for a touchdown, not only did they score on that play, but it carried over into the second half. Our coaches have to do a better job of making sure our kids don’t let plays like that impact us in the second half, because we, by all accounts, should have been ahead at halftime. We just let that play impact us for too long."
Mill Creek kicker Trace Butcher drilled a 47-yard field goal to open the scoring, then Donovan Journey punched it in from the 1-yard line to give the Hawks a 10-0 lead.
West quarterback Keegan Stover hit Dylan Baggett on a 34-yard catch-and-run, but the drive stalled and the Wolverines were forced to punt to Caleb Downs, who fielded the ball on his own 15-yard line before reversing field and returning it inside West's red zone.
Butcher misfired on his second field-goal attempt and the Wolverines put together a long scoring drive, capped by Peyton Streko's 25-yard TD off a screen pass from Stover.
Stover engineered a drive late in the second quarter than had the Wolverines primed to tie the game, hitting Jaycen Harris for 24 yards, then uncorking a 39-yard bomb to Ashton Van Horn. West lined up to attempt a 20-yard field goal, but Zekai Wimby timed the snap perfectly and blocked the kick, allowing Zach Jollay to corral the ball and return it all the way for a touchdown.
Mill Creek's defense held West to a 28-yard Kevin Patraglia field goal in the second half.
“I thought Mill Creek played super defensively," Svehla said. "Later on they were able to kind of pin their ears back and go, which is a benefit of being ahead like that. I thought we did some good things early, and I thought we did some good things in the first half. Special teams was a killer for us tonight. They’ve got some guys that can flat out play on both sides of the ball, but they also have huge weapons on special teams.”
Donovan Journey led the Hawks offensively, finishing with 92 yards on the ground and two touchdowns.
Facing off against a team as talented as Mill Creek is never an easy task, but Svehla feels it’ll benefit his team in the long run.
“I think this is a good experience for us tonight,” Svehla said. “There’s a lot to learn. Last year, we came into region play and got beaten in the first game to North. I think last year we thought we were pretty good going into that game, and North humbled us. I think tonight may have done the same thing to us a little bit. We’ll get refocused, and we’ll be ready to play North in two weeks.”
Streko was the Georgia High School Football Daily Player of the Week after turning in a 267-yard, six-touchdown performance. This week, he put together a solid game against one of the top run defenses in the state.
Mill Creek allowed 6.7 rushing yards per game coming into the matchup, but Streko had 50 rushing yards, 50 receiving yards, and scored the only touchdown of the game for West.
“Peyton ran well when we had places to run,” Svehla said. “They’re hard to run the ball against consistently. If we could’ve kept that game within a score, we could’ve run the ball a little more in the second half, but we couldn’t because we were trying to play catch-up. I thought Peyton did fine, I thought the offensive line was good at times, but not consistent enough for my liking.”
West [2-2] will open region play at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 1 against North Forsyth in Raider Valley.