Breaking up is hard to do, especially when you’ve been able to call the same place home for four years. Linebacker Patrick Dike is one the many Mill Creek High School football players who will be parting ways for good at the end of the year.
Reality struck a little late for Dike, who said the feeling didn’t sink in until Senior Night when the Hawks hosted Habersham Central High School.
“It didn’t hit me until [the game] was almost over. At first [my mindset] was we’re going into the playoffs so it really isn’t over but, then I started realizing this is the last time I’m going to be here. It kind of hit me at the end,” said Dike.
Wide receiver Matthew Pursell, who began his career at Hebron before transferring to Mill Creek, kept his hopes up knowing they have a chance to play together again during the postseason.
“It was sad and kind of emotional but, at the same time, we have a lot more games to play,” stated Pursell.
Dike has been the second leading tackler for the Hawks, and has more than 50 tackles registered on the year. He has developed all of his skill set in such a short period of time, as his freshman year was his first time ever playing football. Dike has come a long way for a guy who initially could barely get his gear on straight.
“I wasn’t really good at all. The first day of practice I came in with my pads on backwards. That goes to show how much I didn’t know about football. It’s been a long process,” said Dike.
The Hawks have forced three shutouts this year, and the one against Habersham Central was just business as usual. Dike and Pursell both agreed that preventing the offense from scoring wasn’t necessarily their plan just because it was Senior Night; they wanted to execute their game plan to the best of their ability while keeping a significant note in the back of their minds.
“We always want to shutout [a team]. When we changed the name to Markham Field [in honor of retiring Principal Dr. Jim Markham], we realized no team had scored on it for the first couple of games so we like to try and keep that going as much as we can on [our] field. I just wanted to score as many times as we could because it was our last time being out there,” said Dike.
“We just needed to execute and score as many times as we got the ball. We wanted to put up more than [49 points],” stated Pursell.
Overall, Dike and Pursell have had a pleasurable experience playing for Mill Creek but Dike says the end result they really want has yet to be seen.
“It’s been enjoyable. I enjoy the process. The hard work hasn’t paid off yet. I want to get a ring first but I like how [it's] made me grow as a person and as a player,” said Dike.
Pursell said, “It’s been fun. It’s definitely been different playing this year than from last year. We’re more of a team and more of a family. We really play for each other and not for an individual status.”
The start of the season marked the most exciting and memorable for Dike and Pursell.
“The Dacula game [was the biggest highlight of the season]; the whole student section was there, everybody was excited for it and, the [score] wasn’t even close,” Dike said.
“Scoring my first touchdown in the Dacula game was pretty cool,” said Pursell.
Every season poses challenges and, when Mill Creek faced off against Norcross on Sept. 28, a 35-14 deficit at halftime wasn’t exactly what the Hawks were hoping for. However, the fans saw a completely different team in the second half. Mill Creek suffered a 49-41 loss but this team is more confident now than ever that they could have beaten the Blue Devils that first time around and, if given the opportunity, they’d like to have that game back.
“We could have beaten Norcross. We came back from [being down] 35-14 in the second half. We should have started off faster. There are a lot of things I would have done to improve my game. I know we can be great now. I didn’t doubt it before but, I had to prove it to myself and now I know we can do it,” Dike stated.
In the future, Dike and Pursell will pursue degrees. While Pursell knows he wants to play collegiate football, Dike isn’t too certain if he will play at the next level.
“I want to [play in college]. School comes first. If someone offers a scholarship for academics, I’ll take that before I walk on [to a team],” Dike said.
“[I'm thinking about playing at] Georgia Southern University. I’d really like to go down there and [I'm also considering] West Georgia,” said Pursell.