Mike London column: Miller spearhead for awesome effort
LAWNDALE — In the joyful frenzy that followed West Rowan’s wipeout of Burns, tailback Dinkin Miller temporarily misplaced his helmet.
Asked where he finally relocated his headgear, Miller replied, ‘Oh, it was just on the ground someplace.”
On the ground someplace was not where Miller was found very often in the Falcons’ 33-7 victory over a touted Burns squad in Friday’s 3A West final in rural Lawndale.
Miller was constantly upright, running through, running over, running around and occasionally even hurdling potential tacklers.
The senior rushed 28 times for 266 yards and three touchdowns, a career outing against a stout defensive team that had held Mooresville, Crest and Franklin to two TDs apiece.
“Dinkin ran with incredible passion tonight,” West running backs coach Jeff Chapman said. “And our guys upfront — I don’t think you can say enough about theat bunch.”
It was impossible to see this level of stardom coming for Miller two years ago when he was backing up legend K.P. Parks and rushing for 283 yards as a soph, although maybe Chapman saw it and maybe head coach Scott Young did.
“It was just that we had K.P. and I had to wait for my turn,” Miller said. “I just tried to watch and learn every day at practice and hopefully prepare myself for some nights like this.”
Burns entered the game 13-1, had beaten a who’s-who list of opponents and was ranked 11th in the state for all classifications by the computer gurus. West, which had a tough time climbing above the ninth spot in the 3A AP Poll all year, was ranked 33rd by the computers.
But maybe it’s time for some maintenance on those computers. West’s dominance of the Bulldogs was complete. Burns owned the last 40 seconds of the first half when it got a pick and a touchdown pass, but the other 47 minutes 20 seconds were the property of the Falcons.
“We made a couple of bonehead plays at the end of the first half,” Young said. “But I thought we played our best game all year. I’ve been telling everyone all along that we hadn’t played our best game yet. Well, this was it.”
Young promised his cheering troops that they’d get to watch the film on Monday.
“And this is a film that you’ll get to watch every single second of,” he told them.
It’s a film they’ll be proud to watch over and over — as close to a perfect game as any group of high school kids will ever play.
West’s sometimes maligned kicking game was fine, and Hobie Proctor restored everyone’s confidence in him by going 3-for-3 on PATs.
West’s defense was at its fiercest, suffocating Burns on critical third-down and fourth-down plays and stuffing the Bulldogs’ fine running back Darius Ramsey, who entered the game with 31 rushing TDs and left it with 31.
Whatever offense turnover-plagued and penalty-plagued Burns managed could be attributed solely to the athleticism of quarterback Brandon Littlejohn. There were times when his churning legs turned nothing into something on broken plays.
“Just another day at the office,” said smiling West defensive coordinator David Hunt, as he accepted congratulations from a wave of delirious West fans who had made the trip.
West’s celebration could be traced back to Monday when offensive coordinator Joe Nixon challenged the offensive line.
“Every scouting report we had said you couldn’t run on Burns, but it’s like I told our guys, they hadn’t played West Rowan yet,” Nixon said. “We’re West Rowan and we run the ball. I challenged our line to be physical, and they were great tonight. They played phenomenal.”
West had the ball on its 32 after the opening kickoff, and Miller raced 68 yards on the very first snap of the game. Some of his long dash was called back by a block-in-the-back penalty downfield, but that play still had to put serious doubt in the minds of the Bulldogs.
“We’d prepared hard all week, and then that first play set a good tone,” Miller said.
It was 12-0 before Burns could blink and 26-0 before the Bulldogs offered serious resistance.
“I remember last year when we played Hibriten, our O-line came off the field after the first series saying, ‘I don’t know, Coach, these guys are good,’ ” Young said. “Tonight, our guys came off saying, ‘Hey, we’ve got this.’ ”
West rushed for a season-high 380 yards. Burns is good. West was better — a lot better.
“We proved people wrong, proved the state of North Carolina wrong,” Miller said. “People keep saying this is a different team from the three that won state championships. But it’s still the same team. Only the faces are different.”