By Chuck Reherman
NORMAN – Digging an early and deep hole.
Yukon did that by spotting Norman to three touchdowns in the opening seven minutes of the game, made a comeback bid, then saw the Tigers pull away to a 61-38 win in the District 6AI-1 opener for both teams Friday night at Harve Collins Field in Norman.
The Millers fumbled on the second play of the game that led to a Norman touchdown, fumbled again four plays into their second possession that led to a second Tiger score and then saw NHS recover a fumble in the end zone to open the 21-point lead with 5:28 left in opening quarter.
Yukon did come back to make it a 21-14 game, but the Millers couldn’t stop what has been tabbed as the best offense on the west half of the state in Norman, led by quarterback Cade Horton. Norman led 28-17 at halftime and went on another 21-0 run in the second half that made it a 49-17 game.
“We had several things that didn’t go right, but I will take full blame for the mishaps in the beginning,” Miller head coach Jeremy Reed said. “It’s on me, on the head coach.
“It’s very tough any team has hat adversity,” he said. “But, I will say I am very proud of the fight tonight. We really showed some resiliency, did some things way better tonight that we have done in the previous three weeks as a football team. It is hard to see that when the score looks the way it does. I can work with that, we could have easily laid down and quit after getting down like we did, but they did not and that is very encouraging to look forward to especially since we have a lot of football left to play.”
Down 21-0, the Millers did get a scoring drive put together and got on the board with 39 seconds left in the quarter on a one-yard run by quarterback Brayden Dutton. The Millers drove 45 yards in nine plays. The score was set up after freshman Chaz Bradley returned the kickoff 35 yards to the Tiger 45.
The Millers, after stopping Norman on their next possession, got back into the game as Dutton scored his second touchdown on a one-yard run to make it a 21-14 game with 6:11 left in the half. Yukon drove 61-yards in eight plays. The score was set up on a 40-yard run by Makari Slaughter to the Norman 20. Yukon scored six plays later to come within a touchdown.
Norman pushed the lead to 28-14 with 4:28 remaining in a Joe Willie 14-yard touchdown run. The Millers did cut the lead to 28-17 with 24 seconds left in the half on a 30-yard Cody Watson field goal.
The Millers started their first possession of the second half from inside their own one-yard line, was forced to put and Norman turned it into a 35-17 lead on a 12-yard Willie touchdown run. YHS did get the ball to the Norman nine, but a penalty moved the ball back and a 40-yard field goal try from Watson was just wide left.
Norman responded with a two-yard Willi touchdown run set up by a 39-yard run by Willie to open a 42-17 lead with 10:02 left to play and turned a 62-yard Horton to Andrew Young touchdown pass into a 49-17 lead.
“You are down literally on the inch line and your quarterback in standing in the end zone taking the snap was a tough situation,” he said. “We would have liked to have had that on the 20, and we wish it would have went about two inches further.”
Slaughter gave the Millers a little more of a spark with a 58-yard touchdown run to cut the lead to 49-23 with 6:11 remaining and Nate Hahn stepped in between to Norman players on an onside kick attempt to catch the ball and give YHS possession.
“We devote time to onsides every week and you never know when you are going to need it,” Reed said. “Cody (Watson) did a great job of getting the ball to bounce like it should and the cover team did a great job getting to the ball. It is nice to see things you practice every week come into play.
“Cody had a good night kicking the ball,” he said. “He is a big time player for us and we are glad to have him.”
Camron Farmer’s 20-yard touchdown run brought the Millers within 49-30 with 4:34 remaining in the game and still have YHS breathing life into the game.
But, Norman countered with a 25-yard touchdown run by Horton to open a 56-30 lead with 1:52 remaining.
The Millers cut the lead to 56-38 as Dutton completed a 15-yard touchdown pass to Colton DeKinder that capped a 71-yard drive. YHS had one more chance when Hahn recovered his second onside kick off the night.
But, Dutton’s pass was intercepted by Jackson Caldwell and returned 62 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the game.
“We did a lot of things better tonight and maybe one of these days we will get healthy too,” Reed said. “We have just been injury-stricken this year. It is just the craziest thing ever. We had a lot of kids out there and doing some good things that have not play in those last three weeks.
“We had to go very deep into the depth chart and had to change some things schematically early on that hurt us in we what happened,” he said. “Again, that is me. I’ll take full ownership of that and we will get better. We got better tonight it is not a good look when you see the score.
“We talk all the time about trusting the process with the team,” Reed said. “There is a process when you are dealing with a young team with little experience and we knew that going into season and getting them to understand that I still believe in them and our coaches still believe in them and we see good things.
“I am choosing to be extremely positive with them, they fought hard and gave great effort. There is nothing I can say that is negative. Were there negative things, absolutely, but that is not for us to dwell on right now. We need to be positive and get better.”