HANAHAN – Hanahan football coach David Morbitzer decided to have a little race at the end of practice one day earlier in the week.
Morbitzer was curious to see just how fast senior linebacker/safety Luke Mills could run.
As it turns out, Mills is pretty fast.
Playing for the first time at running back in his career, Mills carried the ball just five times but finished with 103 yards and two touchdowns to lead Hanahan past Aynor 34-0 in the second round of the Class AAA playoffs Friday night at Wiley Knight Stadium.
The Hawks (9-3) will face Wade Hampton, a 28-14 winner over Strom Thurmond, in the Class AAA Lower State semifinals next Friday night at home. Aynor finished the season at 8-2.
Morbitzer had decided to put Mills in the offensive backfield when the Hawks’ were in short-yardage situations. The only problem was that Mills wore the No. 53 jersey, so he’d be ineligible to carry the ball or catch passes.
Mills switched to the No. 2 jersey this week.
“Luke was working as our fullback in our heavy sets,” said Mortbizer, a former Citadel offensive lineman. “We had a little footrace at the end of practice the other day and we saw he had some speed, so we thought we’d put him in to see if he could run the ball and not just block. He proved tonight that he could.”
Going into Friday night’s game, Mills had never carried the ball from scrimmage or scored a TD.
He can check both off on his bucket list now.
“It felt great to score both of those touchdowns,” Mills said. “The offensive line blocked really well and I just ran as fast as I could, moving my feet and going downhill toward the end zone. I’d never played running back – I’d never carried the ball until tonight. This was the first time ever.”
It probably won’t be the last time.
With the Hawks leading 14-0 and less than a minute left before halftime, Mills, on only his second rushing attempt, got the ball on a routine play between the tackles that was intended to run out the clock. Mills had other ideas. He burst through the line and raced 60 yards for the TD to give the Hawks a 21-0 lead going into the locker room.
“That was a big momentum boost for us,” Mortbizer said. “Luke came over the sideline and told me that was the first touchdown of his career, so really proud of the way he ran tonight.”
In the fourth quarter, Mills put the game away with a 24-yard TD run that gave the Hawks a 34-0 lead.
The Hawks’ featured running back Gale Ball III scored twice and finished with 65 yards and two TDs as well.
“The offensive line did a good job and our backs ran hard,” Mortbizer said. “I thought we did a good job of controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.”
Hanahan’s defense limited the Blue Jackets’ single-wing offense to less than 200 yards of total offense. The Hawks stopped Aynor three times on fourth-down plays during the game.
“Our defensive coaches put together a great plan every week and the players went out and executed it tonight,” Morbitzer said. “We had to get some bigger bodies in there to stop them up front. I can’t give enough credit to all of our defensive coaches.”
Ball gave the Hawks a 7-0 lead late in the first half with an 11-yard TD run.
After holding the Blue Jackets on fourth down, Ball capped another long drive with a 14-yard TD run to give the Hawks a 14-0 lead with 5:52 left before halftime.
Hanahan quarterback Mac Blakeney, who completed 6 of 9 passes for 76 yards, tossed a 47-yard TD pass to Wesley Crain on the Hawks first possession of the third quarter.
Reach Andrew Miller at 843-937-5599. Follow him on Twitter @APMILLER_PandC