By Chuck Reherman
“There’s no place like home.”
At least that was the case for Yukon Friday night.
After four weeks on the road, Yukon finally opened the home portion of their season and the Millers did it impressively, ending a three-game losing skid and pulling off an upset of Edmond Santa Fe, 31-21, in a District 6AI-1 game at Miller Stadium.
YHS also ended a nine-game losing skid to the Wolves. The last time YHS beat Santa Fe was 35-19 in 2010.
The Millers improved to 2-3 overall and 1-1 in district play that keeps the team in the middle of the district race. Santa Fe fell to 3-2 and to 1-1 in the district.
It was a game that saw a young Miller defense “come of age” and one that the Millers took advantage of Edmond Santa Fe mistakes. The Wolves muffed a kickoff and a punt that led to YHS scores, lost a fumble and saw Collin Grulkey’s interception of an Jorgen Olsen pass with 2:09 remaining in the game seal the win. It was the second time that Grulkey had intercepted a pass late in a game to help seal a win. The other was ironically against Edmond North in the season opener.
It was also one that saw a 47-minute weather delay just two minutes into the contest.
The win may be the biggest in the three seasons for YHS head coach Jeremy Reed (the other was a win over Norman North in his first season) and beating Santa Fe is a marquee win for the Millers.
“This is definitely one of the biggest win since I have been at Yukon,” Reed said. “I would say it and the Norman North win are the two biggest since I have been here.
“What a joy to watch these kids tonight,” he said. “It has to be a marquee win for this program. I said last year after week 10 the next thing we have to do in this program is beat teams named Santa Fe and Westmoore. Man, to watch that come true tonight was fun.”
“It was so nice to get to play at home. We had a staff meeting that 3 p.m. just to make sure all the coaches knew what the routine was because a large number of these guys have not been here. It was a new experience being at home and boy it was a good one.”
The Millers did it with a punishing ground game and their defense. YHS did not throw a pass all night and ran the ball 69 times, gaining 309 yards with two rushers going over the 100-yard mark for the third time this season.
“We are very confident as an offensive football team right now,” Reed said. “We think we have a very, very good unit and just the things that Santa Fe was doing was asking us to do what we did. There wasn’t a whole lot in the perimeter game, it was literally a smashmouth old school football game that we had to do to have a chance to win.
“I can’t say enough about the toughness of those guys that put together some amazing drives,” he said. “We tell the kids to trust the process. I knew that 2019 was going to be different because of how young we are. We started seven sophomores and a freshman tonight and when you do that, you know there is going to be growing pains and there was. We saw some of those sophomores grow up a little bit and we are getting more comfortable with a new defense. Things are starting to gel together and we didn’t turn the ball over tonight. I have said for five weeks that if we don’t turn the ball over, we will be in every ball game. And, it held true.”
The Millers, who had been averaging four turnovers the last three weeks, didn’t turn the ball over, but did capitalize on Santa Fe mistakes.
And, that came right from the opening kickoff.
Santa Fe muffed the kickoff and Yukon pounced on the ball at the Wolves’ 19-yard line. The Millers couldn’t get a first down, so Cody Watson came on to kick a 30-yard field goal to give the Millers a 3-0 lead 2:01 into the game.
And, just before the kickoff, whistles blew and the field was cleared due to a lightning delay.
After the 47-minute delay, Santa Fe came out and scored quickly with Olsen finding a seam and running 48-yards for a touchdown and a 7-3 lead at the 9:00 mark.
“We are so routine bases, we kept our routine and that kept our guys focused and ready to come back out and play,” Reed said. “Again, all credit goes to our kids tonight, they made the choice to come out and play like they did tonight.”
The Miller special teams came up with their second recovery of a muffed ball as Santa Fe muffed a punt and Dylan Hawkins recovered for the Millers at the Santa Fe 36.
Yukon regained the lead nine plays later on a one-yard quarterback sneak from Brayden Dutton to take a 10-7 lead with 42 seconds left in the quarter.
Santa Fe did come back to regain the lead 14-10 on a Micah Snoddy two-yard touchdown run. But, the Millers pout together a 17-play, 73-yard drive with Camron Farmer scoring on a two-yard run.
Dutton’s second touchdown run, another one-yarder capped a 76-yard drive to open the second half and a 24-14 Miller lead.
Santa Fe did make it 24-21 with 9:48 remaining, but Dutton and the Millers put together a 51-yard drive in 10 plays with Dutton scoring his third touchdown of the game on a two-yard run to open the 31-21 lead with 4:04 remaining.
“This win helps out a lot in giving the offense and defense a lot of momentum,” Dutton said. “We have to come back in practice and keep going forward. My teammates were picking me up tonight and I have to give a lot of credit to my teammates for the way I played tonight.
“I feel gained a lot of confidence, but I still have to give my teammates for getting us down there and getting the scores. Our game plan was to beat them up inside with our run game and it helped out a lot.”
The Millers sealed the win when Grulkey intercepted Olsen’s pass with 2:09 remaining. Santa Fe had only two time outs left and could not stop the clock and using those two.
“That was the best game our defense has played,” Reed said. “They created turnovers, our special teams created turnovers and we were able to capitalize. It has been a rough year when you look at the injuries we have had and the youth and all the things combined everything has gone in a negative manner and these kids have not allowed to affect them. I’m so proud of those guys, they are working their tails off to get better and better and I am glad they get to see some fruits of their labor.
“It was amazing to see that last take away and not give them a chance,” he said. “But it will be the little things that I will remember. The amount of times we were able to be disciplined and get them to jump offsides. Those are the things a couple of weeks ago, we were the ones jumping offsides. So proud of the disciplined that may be taking over on those things.”
The defense did give up some big plays, but came up with big plays of their own to earn the win led by senior Cade Peters.
“Everyone knew what they were doing tonight, we prepared way better than we had the last three weeks,” Peters said. “I felt that is what helped us. We worked together, came together and gang tackled tonight.
“It is going to give us a lot of confidence going into the next few games,” he said. “We know there are teams we have to beat to get to the playoffs and beating Santa Fe was a big win for us. I remember when we lost to them 50-0 in middle school and we came out and executed better than they did.”
Landon Donoho led the Miller running game with 122 yards on 24 carries and Farmer rushed for 100 on 20 carries. Dutton had his best game of the year with 48 yards rushing and the three touchdowns.
“Brayden had an opportunity to do a lot of things tonight and he played really well managing an offense that some nights is not easy to manage,” Reed said. “We didn’t call a pass all night and it was because we didn’t need to because we were controlling the football game up front.
“He gained a lot of confidence, this whole group is going to gain a lot of confidence,” he said. “It is easy to talk about doing a lot of stuff and taking steps in programs, but you have to do it. And we finally did it. We took a step that needed to happen as far as beating a very respected west side football team. We get to enjoy it and are going to enjoy it to the fullest then saddle back up on Sunday and go east and see the Jenks Trojans.”