Tigers win 7th on the strength of their running game."> Tigers win 7th on the strength of their running game.">

Millennium runs over Sunnyslope

<SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Verdana">Tigers win 7th on the strength of their running game.

It wasn't a big secret that the Millennium Tigers were going to run the ball against the Sunnyslope Vikings on this weeks Cox7 game of the week Thursday night at Millennium.  After allowing Bradshaw Mountain over 300 yards rushing in a loss the previous week, the Vikings looked to be week on the defensive front seven.  Millennium head coach Mark Smith said earlier in the week that he felt his Tiger offensive line had a big advantage over the smaller Vikings.  Sunnyslope coach Dallas Hickman felt his offense needed to keep Millennium's off the field as much as possible.  With the Tigers pounding out 368 yards rushing, the game worked out pretty much as Smith hoped, with Millennium defeating Sunnyslope 45-28.

 

It wasn't quite as easy as the Tiger's hoped, however.  Millennium got rolling early after safety Daniel Cabrera recovered Chase Corley's fumble of a punt after the Vikings held the Tigers on downs to start the game.  Aaron Gentry cashed in on a 12 yard run with a great effort to get the football over the goal line.  Millennium held Sunnyslope and drove to a field goal the second time they got the ball.  Two more touchdowns, one an Akio Lloyd run and a Kirt Brias to Dusty Willhite pass, put the Tigers up 23-0 and it looked like the route was on.

 

What looked like a tough break for Sunnyslope in the second quarter turned out to be a blessing that may help them the rest of this season and into the future.  Starting quarterback Sean Maraz went out of the game on a big hit by Tiger nose guard Tony Lewis and the Vikings were forced to put in sophomore back up Beau Grado.  All Grado did was go 10 of 14 for 270 yards and 3 TDs the rest of the way.  The biggest beneficiary was T.J. Campbell.  After being held to one catch through a quarter and a half, the all-everything Campbell clicked with Grado for two huge scoring plays to close it to 23-14 at the half.  One of the plays was an 80 yard middle screen that Campbell simply left the Millennium defense in the dust.  For the game, he ended up with 9 catches for 223 yards and the two scores, ran for another 36 yards and a touchdown, and returned three kickoffs for 77 yards. 

 

The Vikings had a chance to narrow the gap after receiving the second half kick.  They marched down to the Millennium two but couldn't score.  On fourth down, Tiger linebacker Matt Stanley made what turned out to be the biggest play of the game, stopping Corley short of the goal line to turn the ball over on downs.  The Tigers controlled the ball and the game pretty much the rest of the way to secure the win.

 

Millennium showed a great running game.  Their offensive line blew out the Sunnyslope front seven time and again.  Runningbacks Chance Priddy, Gentry, and Lloyd pretty much had their way.  Priddy, who weighs just 140 pounds, almost rushed his weight with 136 yards on 10 carries.  Gentry had 114 and two scores, while Lloyd chipped in with 54 and two scores.  Kudos to fullback Ricky Courts and Tight end Whillhite for some outstanding blocking. Wide out Anthony Dunkerly returned after four weeks from mononucleosis and showed some good chemistry with quarterback Kirt Brias.  They hooked up several times in the second half, once for a touchdown.  Defensively, the Tigers gave up some big plays, particularly by Campbell.  They are still adjusting to the loss of end Kyle Mataszewski for the year to an ACL injury and they lost their best cover defensive back Chad Lewis for the year last week to a broken leg.  However, they made plays when they had to.  Nose guard Tony Lewis is tough as nails and had a sack and a forced fumble. 

 

Millennium looks like they might go 11-0 if they can get by Moon Valley next week.  After that, they should run the table in a week West Valley region.  A down year for Agua Fria helps, but never count out the Owls in this rivalry.

 

Sunnyslope needs to win at least 3 of their final four.  Coconino will be a tough game next week.  We'll see if there is a Quarterback controversy at the Slope.  Grado is just a sophomore and is far from polished, but is a very good athlete who runs better than Maraz.  Maraz has the better arm, but tends to get jittery when the pocket breaks down. A few more games like we saw Thursday and you'll start seeing some Mike Nixon comparisons. Nixon, the 2001 state player of the year, came on his freshman year due to injuries and went on to set numerous state records. Campbell certainly hopes Grado plays under center.  He had far and away his best game against extremely tough competition.

 

Sunnyslope, as is usually the case, has to play way too many players both ways and tends to wear out in the fourth quarter.  It would be nice to give Corley, Campbell, and company a break every now and then without suffering. They have a good group of young players including sophomores Grado, Jordan Ong, and Aaron Thomas.  Junior linebacker Andrew Belew, who started as a sophomore, needs to get healthy.  He can play. 

 

Next week the Cox 7 crew stays on the west side for a first ever game at Westview when the Knights take on region rival Sunrise Mountain.  Tune in at 7 PM for all the action.  Until then, take care and stay safe.   

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