EUGENE, Ore. -- In front of a sold-out crowd on their home turf, the South Eugene High football team made a loud statement: the Axemen are back.
In a raucous victory celebration, someone yelled, “It’s Miller time!” Which may not have been totally appropriate at a high school game, but certainly seemed correct in this situation.
Chris Miller, who took the Axemen to four post-season playoffs as head coach a few years ago, has returned after a stint as quarterback coach for the Arizona Cardinals. But a coaching staff can only do so much. There has to be synergy between the coaches and the players. And the Axemen seem to have it.
In a game in which they dominated their opponent, the Axemen convincingly defeated Churchill 35-14.
Miller said of the win, “It feels great. It was hard work tonight. We really had to work hard at it. We got off to a good start, and then I lost my best wide receiver, Sean Fabrick, I say his knee get folded. Connor Still, my stud tight end, was cramping like a beast. When you’re not real deep and your numbers aren’t big, you have an attrition rate and you kind of drop down a bit when you go to your backups, but I’m really proud of how the kids persevered. They fought. They kept working. A lot of guys got time. We had a big turnover on defense and I don’t believe we had a turnover on offense, which in a first game is huge. And then we put the nail in the coffin on that last drive. That’s how you finish a football game. I’m really proud of the kids for finishing like that.”
South scored on their first drive on a pass from Liam Duncan to Thayne Kollmorgen. Then South defensive back John Saylor snagged a Churchill pass and scampered across the goal line. At the end of the first quarter the Axemen were up 13-0 and never really were in danger after that. South scored again on a short pass to Connor Still just before the end of the first half, making the score 20-0.
Churchill managed to score on a pass from Justin Kearney to Michael Monroy.
Monroy scored again for Churchill in the fourth quarter to make it 27–14. Although looking somewhat sluggish in the third quarter, South increased their lead in the fourth quarter to 35-14 on a Liam Duncan quarterback keeper.
Neither team played with much polish. Both teams suffered from numerous penalties and South had a punt blocked. But South put up the points, put them up early, and scored on the ground as well as in the air. What the Axemen lacked in polish they more than made up for with aggression.
After the game Connor Still gave his take on the win, saying, “Coach Dino Philyaw said once you win the first game, it’s hard to lose the second game. Once you lose the second game it’s hard to lose the third game. It keeps on going on and on. It keeps the ball rolling. Throughout the off-season Coach Miller always said as a team we had the potential to do something special. We just have to start fast as a team. The difference-maker was starting fast. We started with the touchdown drive, then the pick six. It changes the game.”
The Axemen play Willamette next Friday, September 6, at Willamette. Kick-off is 7 pm.