By Chuck Reherman
NORMAN – When YHS head coach Jeremy Reed checked his phone messages at 6:30 a.m. and saw one from an assistant coach, he wasn’t sure what was going to happen next.
The message let him know that a third member of the starting offensive line would not be available for the district opening against Norman that night. And with the score tied in the second quarter and a four starting offensive lineman went down to an injury, things didn’t look too good for the Millers except for one thing.
The mantra of next man up.
And for the Millers, it rang true as an offensive line with four back-ups gave the Miller offense what it needed to move the ball and another solid effort by the defense sparked Yukon to a 28-14 win over Norman in the District 6A-1 opener at Harve Collins Field in Norman.
The Millers improved to 3-1 overall with their second straight win at Harve Collins Field (YHS beat Norman North the week before 41-24) and 1-0 in the district for the second time in four years.
Yukon used their bruising ground game to break a 7-7 tie late in the first half and controlled the tempo of the game in the second half, limiting Norman to only four possessions in the final 24 minutes.
“All wins are good wins, especially when you are missing four offensive linemen,” Reed said. “It was a good win and it is the story behind the win that makes it even better. It took a lot of work this week to get here this week, an enormous amount by our staff and kids. We had three offensive linemen out and then lot another the second quarter so everything from the middle of the second quarter was guys that have been in our program and have been biding their time.
“Our defense played great,” he said. “We needed that, knew we had to have it because we didn’t know explosive we could be offensively because there was some unknown there on a varsity night. But those kids that came in on O-line really stepped up and the defense played very well and frustrated Norman all night.
“This a bunch of kids that have come to work everyday and did their job. What a great opportunity to use as a teaching moment to know where your time is right. These kids, one of them found out this morning, the others Monday afternoon so to say it was a hectic week is not even an accurate statement. I could tell this morning, we were on the field and our offensive kids were just frazzled. I pulled the over and said listen guys, we are going to be fine and you can’t worry about whose in or whose out or worrying if we are going to get to play, it’s about going out and doing what you have been doing for the last four years.”
With that makeshift offensive line, the Millers ground out 315 yards on the ground and finished with 344 yards of offense against a physical Tiger defense.
The Millers took control on the opening possession of the second half, leading 14-7. YHS put together a 10-play, 73-yard drive that took over five minutes off the clock. Joe Wythe capped the drive on a four-yard to open a 21-7 lead with 6:43 left in the half.
YHS, who had the ball over 10 minutes in the third quarter, scored again with 1:16 left in the frame on a one-yard run by Tristan Brooke. YHS drove 54 yards in nine plays to open the 28-7 lead with 1:16 remaining in the third quarter.
Norman did cut the lead to 28-14 44 seconds later on an 18-yard touchdown run by quarterback Tias McClarty. The score came after a 55-yard kickoff return from Jaden Bray.
Norman did have a chance to close the lead to a touchdown, moving the ball to the Miller seven yard line midway in the fourth quarter. But on a fourth down and one play, defensive end Wesley Adams shot through the gap and tackled Norman’s Delsin Tsotigh for a three-yard loss.
“We made some huge plays all night,” Reed said. “Wesley (Adams) made a huge play and it was a momentum changer. We were up two scores, but with that much time left on the clock it would have been any man’s game because we knew they had three timeouts left. That was ginournous.
“This gives our team a lot of confidence, all wins give a team confidence. This is another road win, that is three in a row and it is going to be nice to go back home, This has been a big night, again because of the back story of what it took to get to tonight. At 6:30 this morning I didn’t know if we would be standing here.
We talked to them with a ton of confidence. They are guys that have been in our program they have run this offense for several years and it is next man up. It has been said a lot in our program the last four years and we told them we have a ton of confidence in them and have faith in yourselves. There were some struggles here and there but overall I thought they did a great job against a defense that plays very, very physical and can give you problems.”
The Millers had taken the early lead on a 55-yard run by Makari Slaughter with 9:11 left in the opening quarter. The Millers broke a 7-7 tie with 4:29 left in the half on a two-yard run by quarterback Brayden Dutton that capped a 13-play, 76-yard yard drive.
Slaughter finished the night with 108 yards on 11 carries, Brooke had 103 on 19 and Dutton 61 on 10.
“It is huge getting that first district win and a win over a team like Norman,” Reed said. “Especially in a year like this where our district has switched to the Covid formula, it’s all about wins and not winning percentage. So, every win is highly valuable.”