Miller throws for 7 TDs; Davie drops 60 on West Rowan
Published 2:22 pm Monday, August 28, 2023
By Brian Pitts
Let’s ponder what happened Friday night at West Rowan.
It was among the darnedest things any Davie quarterback ever made happen. Ty Miller threw seven touchdown passes, two more than the previous school record and just two shy of the state record, as the War Eagles lit up the Falcons 60-28.
But Miller didn’t quite dazzle for most of the first half. The senior misfired on his first five throws. In a span of five plays in the second quarter, he was intercepted twice and sacked twice. And when the Falcons took advantage of a short field and scored with 4:46 remaining in the first half, Davie faced a 14-13 deficit.
Then in the blink of an eye, Davie (1-1) transformed into a locomotive barreling down the tracks, and West (0-2) turned into dust.
From the 14-13 score until game’s end, the War Eagles scored at will. They answered West’s go-ahead score in 79 seconds. They scored three TDs in 2:34, four TDs in 4:31 and five TDs in 7:23. They scored TDs on seven straight possessions.
“I don’t know why I came out so slow,” Miller said. “I was just missing passes. They were open. I talked to my receivers and we got right.”
“Ty was upset with himself,” coach Tim Devericks said. “He knew he was rushing things. Sometimes you think there’s pressure, but there’s not. Once he relaxed and realized there was not pressure, he was fine. There’s no harder critic on Ty than himself. (The 20 points in the final 3:27 of the first half) is being able to stay composed, not get upset about an incompletion or maybe somebody running the wrong route. He’s able to move to the next play and execute.”
Davie opened the scoring by taking advantage of a botched snap. The high snap sent the West punter scrambling and he was stoned 21 yards back at the West 20. Two plays later, Miller, who was 0 for 5 at the time, went down the seam to Braddock Coleman, who reached up and made a beautiful catch for a 19-yard TD.
West workhorse running back Jaylen Neely carried the ball eight times on an 10-play drive as the Falcons tied the score at 6-6. (Elijah Chaffin blocked the extra point.)
Coleman had a quiet opener in the loss to Mooresville, but he was dazzling in week two. He hauled in a deep throw for 49 yards to set up Miller’s eight-yard TD to Leon Bradshaw. Davie had a 13-6 lead, but West picked off two passes and grabbed the 14-13 lead on a drive that began at the Davie 19.
Everything changed on a third-and-10 play from the Davie 36. Miller threw a home-run ball to Ethan Driver. A West defender committed pass interference in the end zone, but Driver caught it anyway for a 64-yard score and a 20-14 lead.
The penalty allowed Davie to kick off from the 50, the ideal spot to try an onside kick. Coleman kicked it and recovered it for the second week in a row, and Davie was in business at the West 30. Two plays later, Coleman had an electrifying catch-and-run, slipping a tackle at the 25, shaking off a defender at the 5 and scoring a 38-yard TD.
West went three-and-out. Like cobras striking, Davie was back in the end zone in less than a minute. This time Miller rocketed the ball downfield to Evan York, who made a 33-yard scoring catch to give Davie a 33-14 halftime lead. Less than four minutes after taking the 14-13 lead, West had been reduced to the board in Miller’s games of darts. He tied the record for single-game TD passes (five) in the first half alone.
“The way the first half ended was hard to overcome,” West coach Louis Kraft told the Salisbury Post. “That and Davie’s onside kicks. Brutal.”
At intermission, Miller had 294 passing yards and was on pace to shatter Alex Summers’ 448 record. Miller did not reach that record, but he ensured his place in Davie lore by breaking the record for TD passes.
On third-and-goal from the 1, a pass ricocheted off York’s hands and right into Bradshaw’s. That was TD pass No. 6 with 10:03 left in the third quarter.
“I was not ready to see three interceptions, so it was comforting to see that land in Leon’s arms,” Miller said.
Miller’s seventh TD was a 24-yarder to Driver with 7:11 left in the third that made it 47-14.
Miller finished 19 of 40 for 325 yards. In state history, a QB has thrown more than seven TDs only seven times.
“I know all the quarterbacks that came before me, so it’s pretty cool,” Miller said. “I talk to Chris (Reynolds) sometimes and ask for advice. I’m boys with Nate (Hampton), so it’s pretty cool to be up there with them.”
After recording just eight receiving yards in the opener, Coleman went off for 143 yards on seven grabs.
“Braddock’s really shifty,” Miller said. “He runs his routes right, he runs them hard and he can make some crazy catches. He does it in practice all the time.”
“Braddock is the ultimate competitor,” Devericks said.
Driver, a sophomore, was outstanding for the second straight week with four catches for 109 yards. That gives him 234 yards in two games. But Miller has several shiny pass-catching weapons, including York (3-55), Bradshaw (3-16, two TDs) and Grey Deal.
“They played man defense and we liked every matchup,” Miller said. “All the receivers stepped up. Even if they had a drop or ran a route wrong, they bounced back the next play.”
Davie had more haymakers to throw late in the third and early in the fourth. Markel Summers snapped a 24-yard TD run, and Miller’s cherry on top was an 11-yard scoring run. Davie had nine TDs on the night, and Miller was involved in eight of them.
Oh, and Summers ran for 104 yards. It was the ninth time in two seasons he’s posted at least 92 rushing yards. Credit for all the offensive fireworks has to go to offensive linemen Evan Froelich, Evan Copeland, Ryder Strickland, Kevin Lazaro and Jalen Alexander.
“They did a great job,” Miller said of his OL. “West blitzed almost every single play, and they did a great job picking it up.”
“We were proud about running it against a seven-man box,” Devericks said. “There were no safeties in the middle of the field.”
Davie’s highest scoring total in 21 games overshadowed its improving defense. On West’s first play from scrimmage, outside linebacker Zander Richardson knocked the ball loose from a West receiver and Eli Branham recovered the fumble.
“We’ve been working that all summer, trying to put a bigger emphasis on turnovers,” defensive coordinator Blaine Nicholson said. “We missed a tackle and Zander comes in there and rips it out. That’s a huge way to start the game.”
When West handed Davie a stinging 35-34 loss in 2022, Evan Kennedy broke the school record for receiving yards in a game with 227. But Davie’s secondary put a wet blanket on Kennedy this time, limiting him to three catches for 37 yards.
Gavin Reese had three pass breakups. Bradshaw, Connor Hood and Dylan Miller had one each. Brandon Wood produced three QB hurries, while Chaffin and Cole Thomas had one apiece. The leading tacklers were Landon Barber (11), Hood (seven), Chaffin (six), Z. Richardson (five), Archer Richardson (five), Elliott Gould (four) and Matty Warner (four).
“Since last year, I think we’re more together and trust each other more,” Hood said after Davie held West to 8-of-24 passing for 100 yards. “We all work every day to do what we did tonight.”
“Gavin had a really, really good game,” Nicholson said. “On the first PBU he had, he slipped or it would have been a pick-6. Connor did some good stuff as far as cutting off routes. He made some corrections from (the Mooresville game).”
“You can see Gavin’s confidence growing,” Devericks said. “Last year (as a freshman) he was just a phenomenal athlete. But he’s taken his athleticism and worked at it and almost become a master at his technique.”
Against Mooresville, Branham led the way with 11 tackles. Davie only had Branham for one quarter at West – he left with an injury – but the defense still had success as Gould stepped into the safety void.
“Elliott cut a couple deep routes off,” Nicholson said. “Eli is obviously our leader on the back end. Elliott made one mistake on their third score, but other than that, he stepped in and did really well.”
Davie kept West out of the end zone nine times out of 13 series. Chaffin and A. Richardson started at inside linebacker, with Ian Boger and Joe Wilds coming off the bench. Jerred Alexander and Z. Richardson were the starters at OLB, with Thomas and Miller rotating in and freshman Jsiere Arnold seeing some time in the fourth. The DL starters were Warner, Barber and Trey’von Doulin. The rotation up front included Xavier Parker, Nathaniel Jordan, Wood and Grayson Cayton.
“It’s hard to take Chaffin off the field, but when Joe got his opportunities, he made the most of it,” Nicholson said. “So we’re going to try to work Joe in as much as we can.”
While the defense is making strides, Nicholson is far from satisfied.
“We gave up four touchdowns and we had some guys on the sideline kind of getting upset,” Nicholson said. “That speaks to where we’re at as a defense. Our expectations are much higher than they’ve been in past years.”
Notes: Davie has won three of four meetings with West. … This was the most Davie points since a 73-28 win at Reynolds in 2021. … Davie and West have played a ton of barnburners over the years, but this was the third-largest win for Davie in the historic rivalry. Davie won 63-6 in 1965 and 41-0 in 2016. … West lost senior offensive lineman Tyler Cline to a fractured ankle in the first quarter. … Miller has thrown at least one TD pass in all 13 of his varsity games in two years. His previous high for TD passes was three, which he’d accomplished three times. The 325 passing yards were a career high for Miller, who went for 324 last year against West Forsyth. … The old record for TD passes in a game was five. Reynolds had five in a 45-42 win over North Davidson in 2016, and Summers had five on two occasions – a 51-34 win over Mooresville in 2021 and the 73-28 win over Reynolds in 2021. … The Falcons compounded their problems by getting flagged 17 times for 135 yards. By contrast, Davie has committed nine penalties in two games. … Davie’s final nonconference game is at home Friday night at 7 against 0-2 North Davidson. The Black Knights have a five-game losing streak dating to 2022. … Davie beat North 28-21 last year and has won three straight in the series. North leads the series 27-26.