2013 high school football preview: Millard Eagles looking for balance offensively
Note: Millard finished with an 8-3 overall record in 2012 and was third in 2A North with a 5-2 record. It lost to Grand 48-33 in the 2A quarterfinals.
FILLMORE — Millard has run the wishbone for decades, and does it as well as anyone in the state.
Heading into the 2013 season, however, coach Marshall Sheriff said it’s imperative his team becomes more balanced offensively.
“Running is obviously what we do well, but we’ve got to be able to keep people honest and keep them out of the box by throwing the ball,” said Sheriff.
The 14th-year Millard coach doesn’t necessarily want to throw more, but across the board the Eagles need to be more efficient. The quarterbacks need to make the right reads and the receivers need to hang on to the ball, something that was sorely missing last year.
Sheriff said he worked tirelessly with his players on throwing and catching last year, but it just never clicked — which made it even harder to call such plays during the game when he really needed to.
Millard finished with 621 passing yards as a team last year, which is on par with past Millard’s teams. But in big games the efficiency was awful.
It completed only 4 of 17 passes for 41 yards in a 30-7 loss to South Summit in September. Late in the season it completed 4 of 13 for 69 yards in a 24-14 loss to Manti.
In a playoff ouster to Grand, Millard only completed 2 of 8 passes.
Those struggles made it very easy for opposing defenses to stack the box to try and slow all-state running back Jesse Rhodes. The senior still had a fantastic season with 1,693 yards, but his presence is a luxury the Eagles no longer have.
Dayton Komarek takes over at tailback, but with just 21 carries last season he possesses very limited varsity experience.
Sheriff hopes the passing game comes along so Komarek and the rest of Millard’s running backs have more gaps to run through.
“We have the intention of being a little more balanced with our passing game, but they’ve got to prove they can do that in practice,” said Sheriff.
That falls on the shoulders of everybody. It’s up to junior quarterback Skyler Cranney to throw the ball accurately, and if he can’t the responsibility will fall on the shoulders of sophomore backup Kyle Stevens. When they do throw it, it’s up to returning starter Jeffrey Robison to catch it. The senior finished with 401 yards and five touchdowns a year ago.
None of that can happen if the offensive line doesn’t protect the quarterback, or if it doesn’t open up holes in the running game for Komarek, Rudy Alcala and Co.
For the first time in several years, the offensive line might be capable of doing both. The Eagles have decent size in the trenches for the first time in a while, but most of those players are sophomores and juniors.
“Up front with our big bodies, we’ve got to try and move people out of the way,” said Sheriff. “We’ve been undersized the past couple years and we need to try and blow people back and dominate.”
That size will certainly come in handy against South Summit. With Manti out of the equation in 2A, Millard and South Summit are the top dogs in the 2A South region, and South Summit coach Jerry Parker said he has more size this year than he ever has.
Like most of his team, that size is untested, and as a result Sheriff isn’t quite sure what to expect in 2013.