By Chuck Reherman, Sports Editor – Yukon’s defense went into the Millers’ home opener looking to make a statement about their side of the ball.
The Miller D made that statement loud and clear.
Yukon shut Southmoore down to under 100 yards of offense and helped the offense with three interceptions to post a 28-7 win over Southmoore Friday night at Miller Stadium.
The Miller defense was nearly flawless in their play and they stymied the Southmoore offense in the first half to only 10 yards rushing and 209 passing as the Millers built a 21-0 lead.
It was the first of a four-game home stretch for the Millers, who saw a loud crowd in the stands and the team responded on the field.
“It was awesome, I thought there was a lot of great energy,” YHS head coach Jeremy Reed said. “I really noticed our student section, there was a big crowd and they got here early and were loud. It is a lot of fun to play at home and the kids fed off that energy. It was great to play a game at home.
“Our defense was really, really good tonight,” he added. “They (the defensive staff) had a great game plan and the kids executed that game plan. I thought we were flying around to the ball big time and the defense to me was the story of the game because we were struggling on offense at times.”
The defense limited Southmoore to 79 yards of offense on the night and forced the Sabercats into several three and out situations, including the first two possessions of the game.
And, while the offense had opportunities to add at least three more scores, but had their moments, the defense came up with the big plays. Yukon intercepted Southmoore quarterback Jaedyn Scott three times in the first half. Jacob Moore picked off two of those passes and Owen Olsen had one pick.
The Millers, who are now 2-1 and have won two in a row for the first time since 2014, scored the earliest in a game this season. The Millers put their first score on the board on their second possession, a three-yard run by Nollan Koon.
YHS had a short field to work with after Southmoore punted the ball out of bounds at their own 31. It did take the Millers eight plays to put the score on the board with 54 seconds left in the first quarter.
YHS put a second score on the board quickly. A bad snap on a punt attempt by Southmoore gave YHS the ball at the ‘Cats 34-yard line.
On the first play, Perry Olsen connected with Carvelle McKinley on a 34-yard scoring pass and a 14-0 lead with 11:39 left in the first half.
The offense had other chances, but did turn the ball over on a fumble. That came after Owens’ interception.
One play after the fumble, Moore picked off Scott with 1:08 left in the half.
YHS put a scoring drive together in the final minute, with Bryce Williams scoring on a five-yard run. The score was set up on a 42-yard pass from Olsen to Williams and then a 23-yard Olsen to Williams pass play to the ‘Cats five-yard line. Williams scored on the next play.
The Millers did have some second half trouble in the second half, but relied on their defense. YHS even tried a fourth down play at their own 42, but turned the ball over on downs to Southmoore.
“We are settled in, we just had our moments on offense,” Reed said. “Being a team that is not consistent at times offensively, but it was a 21-point victory.
“We were struggling on offense at the time we went four a first down on fourth and three,” he added. “There were two reasons we went for it, one was the wind, we didn’t think we would get much of a net gain and two, the defense was playing so well, I wasn’t concerned. I was proud of how our defense played tonight.”
The Millers did give up a touchdown in the third quarter on a 13-yard Scott to Rae-Quan Wicks. But, the defense didn’t let the ‘Cats gain many yards after that.
The Millers put the icing on the game in the fourth quarter after putting a 47-yard drove together. Olsen scored the final TD on a one-yard run. The play was set up on a 37-yard Parker Kenley run to the Southmoore two-yard line.
“Winning is great and it is great to watch,” Reed said. “Standing on the field and seeing all these people still here, this is awesome for Yukon. I loved the way our kids responded, we had a great week of practice.
“The more you win, the more intensity and focus you get,” he added. “I like where we are at. I think a lot of people would have bet against us saying that Yukon would be 2-1 going into week four.”
The Miller offense finished with just under 300 yards of offense. Olsen, who played at Southmoore last year and moved to the Yukon school district during the holiday break, completed three of eight passes for 99 yards. He also rushed for 51 yards on 13 carries.
Olsen said the game would be bittersweet for him, but congratulated his former teammates on the game and celebrated with his new teammates.
“Perry did struggle at times with stuff he hadn’t struggled with and it is tough,” Reed said. “When you have been at a place your whole life and then move your senior year, there is a lot of emotions in that.
“I kind of expected that,” he added. “He had his struggles, but he did throw for two touchdowns and could have thrown for more.
“He pressed a little too hard at times. It is what we call running through the mesh, he was trying to make a play. I am glad for him and Owen that it is over with.”
Cody Burnett led the rushing with 59 yards on 13 carries, Noah Davis had 57 on eight and Kenley 39 on two. Williams did catch two passes for 65 yards.