By Chuck Reherman
The “pre-season” is over and it’s time for football to get real.
Yukon will begin its run for a playoff berth on Friday, opening District 6AI-1 hosting Norman Friday at Miller Stadium. Kick-off for the game is set for 7 p.m.
The Millers will also go in seeking their first win of the season after a rough start. YHS, 0-3, lost to Norman North 47-10 in their final non-district game last week. Norman, 1-2, ended a two-game losing skid with a 62-58 win over Mustang.
The Millers have won four of the last seven meetings with the Tigers, including a 28-14 victory in the district opener. Norman won 61-38 in 2019 and the Millers won 14-7 in 20-18 and 56-28 in 2017.
The teams do have two common opponents. Norman lost 41-24 to Norman North in the season opener and beat Mustang last week in the high scoring thriller.
The two teams also faced off back in August in the Stillwater scrimmage in a running clock game. Norman won that 10-7 on a last second field goal.
“They count now,” Miller head coach Marshall Hahn said. “Not that they haven’t up to this point, but there is obviously a little more on the line each Friday night. Hopefully we will continue to improve and start out 1-0 in district. That is everyone’s goal.
“I felt we played better last week, we still made some mistakes,” Hahn said. “
That Norman North team is a good team, I don’t want to take anything away from them. But, we have to finish up drives with points and not just chew up yards and clock and not get anything for it. Defensively, a couple of big plays in the second half we wish we could have back. We just need to find a way to get them on the ground. It is things we continue to work on and I see continual growth and progress and that is encouraging.”
The Millers will be tasked with stopping a Norman offense that rushed for 454 yards against Mustang last week and had three ball carriers run for over 100 yards each.
The Tiger offense is built around quarterback Tias McClarty, who had 217 of those yards on the ground and six touchdowns. Runningbacks Xavier Shackelford had 132 and two touchdowns and Davin Alexander 107 and one score. McClarty, though, can also throw the ball and is a dual threat in the backfield.
“That win over Mustang, especially the way they won after losing their first two will buoy their confidence,” Hahn said. “We will get a team that is feeling good about themselves, so we have to make sure we take care of the football and tackle well, all those things we talk about every week, I think we will be okay.
“I don’t think there is a big advantage or disadvantage for either team to have scrimmaged each other,” he said. “It was pretty limited because we didn’t go against them in the rapid fire portion of the scrimmage just the two 10-minute running clock game, so it was about 20 snaps.
“Plus, they have been in a our district awhile, so there is a level of familiarity there,” he added. “I don’t really put too much on what happened in Stillwater anyway.”
Norman can put points on the board. The Tigers scored 24 on Norman North, 30 on Moore and 62 last week against Mustang. The team has also given up points on defense, allowing 41 in each of their first two games and then 58 last week.
“Norman has that same kid back at quarterback and he makes their team go,” Hahn said. “He is a good runner and even if you think you have him bottled up he can get loose.
“Their offensive line is pretty good, they have a couple of kids in the backfield that are good runners as well,” he said. “Their defensive line is always fairly athletic and seems to be that way again. They have confidence in what they do and we have to be prepared for that and be able to make some slight adjustments. I will definitely be a challenge.”
The Miller offense is still looking for that break out night and it could come Friday.
Senior quarterback Brayden Dutton has a young bunch around him (the Millers have been hit by injuries that has caused the backfield to go with younger players) and he is looking for that breakout night.
Sophomore runningback Logan Day has hit best night running the ball last week and is also looking for a breakout performance. The Millers do have a breakaway threat is Keaton Hahn, who had a 55-yard touchdown run against Norman North.
“We have to make sure we do a good job of identifying our option count, who we are identifying as the dive or the pitch key,” Hahn said. “We have to make sure we get people in the right positions, because sometimes Norman will shift a little bit.
“One of the things about the option game, is we can be wrong, we just all have to be wrong together,” he said. “As long as everyone is on the same page we can live with it, we just have to communicate.”