By Chuck Reherman
For the first 24 minutes it looked like Yukon’s chance to finish the regular season with a winning record for the second year in a row was in jeopardy.
The Millers “woke up” and turned things around in the second half.
YHS erupted for a 34-point second half surge and raced past Edmond Memorial, 48-34 Friday night in the regular season finale at Miller Stadium.
The Millers finished the regular season with a 6-4 record for the second straight year in the tough District 6AI-1 race and earned their way into the playoffs for the first time since 2013. YHS and Memorial, who finished 0-10, were the only teams in the district that played all seven district games and all 10 regular season games.
Yukon trailed 22-14 at halftime, after being behind 22-6 at one time in the first half. The Millers who turned the ball over three times in the first half, forced Memorial into miscues in the second and took control of the game with three scores in the third quarter, 34-22.
“I feel like we have had to earn a lot of things this year, so earning our way into the playoffs was big for us,” YHS head coach Jeremy Reed said. “I was fearful of having a slow start, this week we painted the picture truthfully and didn’t hide it. It would have took miracles for us not to be the fourth seed even if we would have loss. My feel was we would come out and slop around and that is what it looked like the first half.
“The kids responded really well in the second half, came out and executed,” he said. “Nothing extraordinary. We brought Logan (Troxell) in at quarterback in the second half, we have a lot of faith in him and decided to sit Brayden because we didn’t need to play him. We didn’t run the risk of going into the playoffs without, we are already going in without a lot of kids and didn’t want to miss him.
“We told them as halftime to settle in and quit doing the things that weren’t Miller like and get them on the same page and they responded to that well.”
The Millers came out focused in the third quarter and came within two points less than three minutes into the second half. Troxell engineered an eight-play 80-yard drive with Tristan Brooke scoring from one-yard out. Troxell completed a 23-yard pass to Chaz Bradley to the one-yard line and Travon Ware had runs of 25 and 17 yards to set up the score. Yukon did go for the tie, but one the conversion the ball was stopped short of the goal line.
After the defense stopped Memorial’s first possession of the second half, the Millers put together another long drive of 89-yards in six plays to take their first lead of the game. Ware scored the go-ahead TD on a 12-yard run. Ware also had a 33-yard run in the drive and finished the night with 138 yards rushing on 12 carries.
Troxell, who had runs of 13 and 19 yards, connected with Bradley on the conversion to open a 28-22 lead with 3:33 left in the quarter.
Zac Stilwell’s recovery of a Memorial fumble five plays later, set up a third touchdown in the quarter. Brooke scored on a 37-yard run on the third play of the drive. Logan Grulkey had a 22 yard run in the drive that opened a 34-22 lead.
“We felt the energy raise on the sideline in that third quarter after we took the lead,” Reed said. “We were able to feel a lot more like ourselves. Early on it felt very subdued and shocked. You can warn them all you want about what potentially could happen and that the team is better than what they show, and sometimes you have to find out the hard way.
“That is an 0-10 team and I think they are a lot better than 0-10,” he said. “Those turnovers we caused were huge and anytime we can cause a turnover, we feel good our offense and get points out of them. Our offense seems to be really, really good after we get a turnover.”
The Millers extended their lead to 41-22 after blocking a Memorial punt with Cody Pfieffer recovering at the Memorial six-yard line.
Ware scored on a four-yard run three plays later to push the lead to 19-points.
Memorial did cut the lead to 41-28 with 4:13 remaining, but the Millers added another score on a six-yard run by Ware to run the lead to 48-28 with 59 seconds left in the game.
It looked like at the start that the game was going to be a repeat shootout from last year’s 68-34 Miller victory. Memorial scored on their opening possession and the Millers answered three plays later on a 62-yard Makari Slaughter touchdown run. YHS went for the two-point conversion and the pass fell incomplete to trail 7-6.
The Bulldogs added scores on a one-yard run by Cameron Goff and a four-yard run by Muhammed Asif to open a 22-6 lead. Both of those scores came after Miller turnovers.
Brooke scored on a 32-yard run to cut the lead to 22-14 at the half. Brooke finished with 86 yards on eight carries, Slaughter had 62 on the one and Grulkey had 38 on four carries.
“We don’t typically pitch the ball and put it on the ground like we did in the first half,” Reed said. “We just have to be better. The backfield seems to change weekly with who we have available and we didn’t have everyone available tonight.”