DAWSONVILLE — Greater Atlanta Christian rode the arm of Stanford recruit Davis Mills to a 42-7 win over Dawson County for the Region 7-AAA championship Friday night in Dawsonville.
The Tigers (7-2, 5-1) will play host to Lovett as a No. 2 seed in the Class AAA state playoffs next week.
Mills connected on 18-of-24 pass attempts for 319 yards and five touchdowns, including the first four scores of the game for the Spartans (9-1, 6-0). Mills was also intercepted for the first time this season as he tried to make something happen and forced a pass over the middle with defenders in his face.
“He’s just that good,” Dawson County coach Sid Maxwell said of Mills’ play. “He’s the catalyst. When they can get our hips turned and he can throw it on the timing route, you don’t have an answer for that in high school. He’s No. 2 in the country for a reason.”
Dawson County put its lone score on the board with 10:15 left in the fourth quarter when Payton Myers converted a fourth-and-2 for a 22-yard touchdown run.
Maxwell told his team after the game that being the runner-up is a great season and the playoffs next week might as well be a new season with a 0-0 record. Still, he knows the level of competition will remain high.
“Like I told the boys, I’ve been doing this a long time and I’ve been fortunate to get into the playoffs, it’s a new season. It’s 0-0,” Maxwell said. “It doesn’t matter where you are. You’ve got a home football game next week. From here on out, they’re all good football teams or else they wouldn’t be in the playoffs.”
No matter how far the score got away from the Tigers, quarterback Coey Watson and his team continued to push.
“That’s one thing, no matter if we get beat, no matter what happens – they could be beating us like they were tonight or we can be up – we will never give up. We’ve got heart,” Watson said. “I love this team, no matter what the score is. These are my brothers. I love them. We’re never going to give up.
“It’s a hard loss tonight, especially for a region championship. It happens. We’ve just got to get back together for next week.”
The Spartans answered on their next drive after Dawson County’s score with a 1-yard touchdown pass from Mills to Barry Thurmond, Mills fifth of the night and the final points of the game.
Greater Atlanta Christian led 28-0 at the half, courtesy of Mills’ arm and his receivers making plays. Mills threw a 56-yard touchdown to receiver Harrison Sloan (7 catches, 169 yards, 2 touchdowns) on the Spartans’ second drive of the game.
That was the only score of the first quarter.
GAC put up three touchdowns in the second quarter. Mills tossed 4-yard and 14-yard scores on consecutive drives. His interception came on a third-and-4 play on Dawson’s 44-yard line.
The Tigers used the turnover – the only of the game for either squad – to get in field goal range at the Spartans’ 14. The 31-yard attempt was pulled wide right with 1:32 before the half.
Mills answered with an 18-yard run before throwing one of his six incompletions. Then he connected with running back Kyler McMichael (two catches, 68 yards, touchdown; 13 carries, 91 yards, touchdown) on a 68-yard screen pass.
McMichael split defenders before his breakaway speed carried him into the end zone with 1:05 still before the break.
Maxwell said that screen pass was the turning point in the contest, giving all momentum to the eventual region champions.
“That young man took it and he was on a different speed than we were,” Maxwell said.
McMichael scored on a 1-yard run one play after breaking for a 40-yard scamper just 4:34 into the second half to put the Spartans’ up 35-0.
“I think we did some good things,” Maxwell said. “We’re still growing as a program. If you look at our history, if we played this time last year, it might have been worse. Our boys are starting to understand they can compete.”
Watson, who threw for 53 yards and rushed for 53, said he’s proud of the season his team has put together and is ready to turn his thoughts toward a home playoff game.
“Any year you go seven or eight wins, that’s a good year. Region runner-up, that’s a second-place seed and a home game. You can’t hang your hat on that one game,” Watson said. “We’re still going to have confidence. We’re still the same team we were last week. We’re still the same team we were when we were beating everybody. This game is not going to keep us down. We’re going to bounce back next week and get right back to it in the playoffs. That’s what our mind’s on now. This game’s over.”
Watson said he’ll probably think about this one through the weekend, but come Monday, he’ll wipe it off his mind.
“It’s always going to hang with me, knowing we could’ve been region champions. That could have been another title,” Watson said. “We’ve taken hard losses before. We’re experienced. We’ll bounce back.”