HOSCHTON — Cameron Turley already has his life course plotted. And it doesn’t involve football.
The Mill Creek senior quarterback is committed to play baseball for Georgia Tech. But for now that’s not stopping him from leaving some lasting, final marks on the Hawks' football record books.
Last week Turley passed for a school-record 349 yards -- eclipsing the old mark of 332 set by John Russ against Etowah in 2010 -- and his four touchdown passes also established a new school record of 37, and counting, overtaking former standouts Russ and Daniel David, who each tossed 35 during their careers.
“I had no idea about a record or anything until after the game,” Turley said. “That’s pretty cool. But I just do what the coaches want -- running or passing -- and just try to get the ball to the right guys.”
Turley seems rather unassuming to be the main focal point of one the top offenses in the state. But don’t let that fool you. The desire to go out in style is driving Turley and the rest of the seniors, who feel they have some unfinished business in 2016 after falling to eventual state champion Colquitt County in the 2015 semifinals.
Mill Creek exacted a measure of revenge against the Packers with a 34-27 victory to open the season in the Corky Kell Classic. Turley, however, said the Hawks have moved past that and on to bigger things.
“I think we probably had a little bit of a chip on our shoulder for that one,” he said. “It was nice to get them back, but we’ve moved on. It would mean more to us if we could get to that next game.”
The “next game” is a first-ever trip to the state finals.
2015's semifinal run was the best in program history. Turley was a huge part of that, throwing for 2,358 yards with 18 TDs and just three interceptions, and he is on pace to shatter the first two marks in 2016. He already has thrown for 1,607 yards and 18 TD passes and just two interceptions -- with two more regular season games and surely at least one more playoff game remaining.
Turley said finishing with a different outcome in 2016 has been a driving force for he and his senior teammates. They each experienced last season's semifinal loss -- one in which they trailed just 21-17 at halftime before key injuries and turnovers in the second half turned the game into a 52-31 romp for the Packers.
“(The Colquitt loss) was a tough one to swallow,” Turley said. “We were in the game. But things happen. We’re really hungry this year to get back to that spot and beyond.”
Mill Creek coach Shannon Jarvis said he has noticed a change in Turley since he committed to the Yellow Jackets baseball program in the summer. And it has helped his football team overcome some early question marks, as the Hawks rebuilt a defense that lost plenty of standouts to graduation.
“I think once he committed to baseball you could see a change when he came out in the fall,” Jarvis said. “He’s out here playing for his teammates, he’s a leader, and it looks like he’s having a lot of fun. The guys on the team have rallied around him, and they all seem pretty relaxed and loose most Friday nights.”
“I am having fun,” Turley confirmed. “There’s no real pressure on me as far as worrying about recruiting and (which scouts) are out here looking at whoever. I have a lot of confidence in myself and this team and we’re just trying to have fun and finish our (high school) careers the best we can be.”
Jarvis said Turley would be just as big a recruit on the football side, and is just scratching the surface of his football potential.
“Even before last year we saw some intangibles in Cameron that we felt he had a tremendous amount of potential on the football field,” Jarvis said. “Right now he has a complete understanding of our offense and what things to exploit on defenses. He is very smart out on the field. We feel we can run any play in the playbook with him.”
Jarvis said the key to the 2016 offense is its versatility. The Hawks scored 520 points in 2015 (37.1 points per game) and are ahead of that pace so far in 2016 averaging 38.2 ppg (307 points).
In last week’s Region 6-AAAAAAA win over Peachtree Ridge, Turley’s four touchdown passes went to four different receivers. Five different receivers have caught touchdown passes in 2016 and 13 different receivers have caught at least one pass. Meanwhile, five different players have at least 20 carries in the run game to offer the balance Jarvis and his staff are striving for.
Edmond Graham leads all receivers with 31 receptions for 608 yards and 6 TD catches. Ace Williams also has 18 catches for 364 yards and 5 TDs; Jake Plummer has 19 catches for 228 yards and 1 TD, and tight end Mitch McEnaney has 5 receptions for 100 yards with four touchdowns. As a group the receiving corps is averaging over 15 yards a catch.
“We have good diversity on offense and Cameron is getting the ball to all of them,” Jarvis said. “We are looked at as a power running team, but last year we had more passing yards than rushing yards, and it’s the same this year. We just try utilize the talent we have, and Cameron is the right guy back there to make that happen.”
“We have a lot of talented guys on this team,” Turley added. “I don’t look to any one person. I just try to throw it to whoever is open. Sometimes they’re all open, so...”
Mill Creek will look to claim its second straight region title on Friday when the Hawks play host to Mountain View in Region 6-AAAAAAA. Mill Creek won the old Region 7-AAAAAA in 2015 for the its first-ever region crown.
Both offenses have been among the best in AAAAAAA, with Mill Creek (8-0, 4-0 Region 6-AAAAAAA) second and the Bears (7-1, 3-1) right behind in third (293, 36.6 ppg) in scoring. The difference could once again be the Hawks' defense, which has apparently finished rebuilding. The unit is currently third in AAAAAAA in scoring average (73, 9.1 ppg) and has held four opponents -- Peachtree Ridge, North Gwinnett, Collins Hill, Stephenson -- to their lowest offensive outputs of the season.
“Our defense has gotten better every game and they have really helped us out,” Turley said. “It’s fun watching those guys.”
With record-setting performances and the possibility of leading the Hawks into further uncharted waters, has Turley given any thought of looking at a dual-role once he hits The Flats in Atlanta?
“Well, I’m not an option quarterback so I don’t know how well that would go,” he said. “Honestly, I’m just excited to be able to focus on what is happening right now and not have to worry about the future. I think if I had focused just on football maybe my upside would be high, but after this season is over it’s strictly baseball. My goal is just to have fun playing football for as long as I can.”
Mill Creek certainly hopes that extends seven more contests -- all the way to the Georgia Dome.
MOUNTAIN VIEW at MILL CREEK
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m.
-- WHERE: Mill Creek Community Stadium, Hoschton
-- MOUNTAIN VIEW (7-1, 3-1 Region 6-AAAAAAA): Defeated Collins Hill 24-21 last week
-- MILL CREEK (8-0, 4-0 Region 6-AAAAAAA): Ranked No. 1 in Class AAAAAAA; defeated Peachtree Ridge 31-12 last week
-- NOTABLE: Mill Creek leads series 5-1. The Hawks won 42-0 in 2015. ... With just one game remaining against the bottom two teams in the region after Friday, this game essentially is for the region title. Mill Creek owns wins over North Gwinnett and Peachtree Ridge while the Bears only blemish came to the Bulldogs last month.