Shaw Column: Run-of-the-Miller

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 4, 2011

MOUNT ULLA — It was a situation that begged for someone with Dinkin Miller’s resume.
A situation tailor-made for a fights-for-everything running back with 19 touchdowns and more than 1,600 yards to his credit this season.
And up and down West Rowan’s sideline, everyone knew this situation wasn’t going to be easy.
“It was getting tense — real tense,” left tackle Mike Norman acknowledged. “Things weren’t exactly falling into place. We all knew we needed to score.”
Let’s set the scene. It was late in the third quarter of Friday’s first-round playoff win against Mount Pleasant and there were the Falcons, three-time defending state champions, looking downright human. After slapping the visitors silly in the opening period, they had grown strangely complacent, out of sync and mistake-prone. An interception here, back-to-back penalties there and a string of incompletions left them slumbering off the field with a 24-6 lead.
West wasn’t losing its grip, only its spark and luster.
“We kept having letdowns in key spots,” said quarterback Zay Laster. “It seemed like we kept driving into the red zone and stalling out. We weren’t going at 100 percent.”
Or as fullback Jordan Davenport so aptly put it, “We needed to get things going West Rowan-style. We needed to play smash-mouth football.”
Enter Miller, the 180-pound senior who has spent the season knifing through opposing defenses like a point guard breaking a zone press.
“You’re talking about No. 8?” linebacker Deon Pillsbury queried after MP was drummed out of the playoffs. “When it came to containing him, we lost. The tough part was that he read his blocks so well. Whether it was the fullback or the tackles, he always knew where to go.”
Miller, of course, is no run-of-the-miller. If you couldn’t find him last night, all you had to do was look in the end zone. He channeled his inner K.P., scored three touchdowns and rushed for a career-high 232 yards.
“I knew what my team needed me to do,” he later explained. “And I knew when they needed it.”
His timing was perfect late in the third quarter — as tempers simmered, frustration brewed and things were getting a little testy on the home side of the field. When West took over on its own 43 it felt like one of those pivotal, watershed moments the Falcons have come to embrace over the past few years.
And smack in the middle of it was Miller. A trio of bursts up the gut produced 19 yards of prime real estate before a motion penalty lost five. Then on the final play of the period Miller took a handoff from Laster, picked up a leveling block from Davenport and swept left for a 25-yard gain to the Mount 18 — knocking defenders over like they were bowling pins.
“Dinkin, he’s just Dinkin,” Norman said, a huge smile creasing his face. “You give him the ball and he’s gonna make something happen.”
Miller modestly deflected any praise. “The whole line was great all night,” he said. “All I did was put the team on my back and carried them.”
Three minutes later he took another handoff, stutter-stepped to his right and found a seam in MP’s defense on a 3-yard TD run, finishing with 65 yards on WR’s final scoring drive.
“That entire drive he gave us everything he had on every play,” said Laster. “He stepped up when we needed him most.”
Last night they needed everything Miller gave them.