Miller, NGA Raiders cap 9-0 season with defeat of Fighting Scots

 

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

HAMLET — Ninth Grade Academy football coach Jay Jones tells the story of tailback Dante Miller’s arrival to a recent practice with a cellphone in hand.

What on earth, Jones asked, are you doing with a cellphone at practice?

Submitted photo Dante Miller scored at least three touchdowns in each of the Raiders' nine games this season, leading the Ninth Grade Academy to a 9-0 season.

Submitted photo
Dante Miller scored at least three touchdowns in each of the Raiders’ nine games this season, leading the Ninth Grade Academy to a 9-0 season.

Miller started to reply, but Jones cut him off. Go put it down.

“But coach,” Miller persisted, “I” — again, Jones interrupted.

Put the phone on the bus and get back on the field, Jones insisted.

“You don’t understand, Coach,” Miller said, somewhat shakily to the man who determines his playing time. “This isn’t my phone. I found it. If I put it down, the girl (who owns it) might not get it back.”

In the face of adversity, Miller stood up to one of the men in life who can take away what matters most to Miller — time on the gridiron. And just as Miller stood up to Jones, he used that same level of energy and dedication — and raw speed and still-developing strength — to help the Ninth Grade Academy Raiders take down the Fighting Scots on Wednesday in a 41-14 victory at Pate Stadium in Laurinburg.

Miller scored five rushing touchdowns, including four in the first half en route to a 28-8 lead at intermission. Samad Anderson added a punt return for a touchdown.

Jones said Miller relies on pure speed.

“You can’t teach that,” Jones said. “He can go. When he gets out front, you’re not going to catch him.”

Submitted photo The 2014 Ninth Grade Academy Raiders capped a perfect 9-0 season with a 41-14 win over rival Scotland.  Top row, left to right: David McGuire, coach; Matt Poston, coach; James Jasper, Chase Coulthard, Gordon Pihl, Darius Andrade, Jay Jones, coach, Deion Green, coach. Fifth row: Steven Blyther, Chris Womack, Julius Saunders, Jerren Stuart, Clint Snipes, Daren Mason, Xavier Gibson, Dalton Jones, Andre Ellerbe, Malik Flowers. Fourth row: Devin McNair, Tyler Leviner, Adrridous Tillman, Samad Anderson, Brandon Jackson, Dalton Nuttall, Savion Streeter, Dante Miller, Hunter Cook, Dakota Wilson Third row: Feahntrai Bush, Jaydyn McNeil, Austin Watson, Shahim Sinclair, Cortez Sturdivant, Kaleb Douglas, Jeremy Wall, Curtis Freeman, Wesley Chavis, Jaleen Baldwin, Shane Summey. Second row: Jamel Baldwin, Garrett Williams, Antonio McRae, Khaliq Anderson, Austin Cook, Braydon Hoffman, Zane Ritter, Antuan Zeigler, Jordan Bennett, Jaquan Everett First row: Josh Bell, Bernard Gibson, Tre Cook, Jeremiah Dockery, Brandon Harris, Tommy Shelton, Dejuan Graham, Stefon Butler, K.J. Hill, Marquise Simmons.

Submitted photo
The 2014 Ninth Grade Academy Raiders capped a perfect 9-0 season with a 41-14 win over rival Scotland.
Top row, left to right: David McGuire, coach; Matt Poston, coach; James Jasper, Chase Coulthard, Gordon Pihl, Darius Andrade, Jay Jones, coach, Deion Green, coach.
Fifth row: Steven Blyther, Chris Womack, Julius Saunders, Jerren Stuart, Clint Snipes, Daren Mason, Xavier Gibson, Dalton Jones, Andre Ellerbe, Malik Flowers.
Fourth row: Devin McNair, Tyler Leviner, Adrridous Tillman, Samad Anderson, Brandon Jackson, Dalton Nuttall, Savion Streeter, Dante Miller, Hunter Cook, Dakota Wilson
Third row: Feahntrai Bush, Jaydyn McNeil, Austin Watson, Shahim Sinclair, Cortez Sturdivant, Kaleb Douglas, Jeremy Wall, Curtis Freeman, Wesley Chavis, Jaleen Baldwin, Shane Summey.
Second row: Jamel Baldwin, Garrett Williams, Antonio McRae, Khaliq Anderson, Austin Cook, Braydon Hoffman, Zane Ritter, Antuan Zeigler, Jordan Bennett, Jaquan Everett
First row: Josh Bell, Bernard Gibson, Tre Cook, Jeremiah Dockery, Brandon Harris, Tommy Shelton, Dejuan Graham, Stefon Butler, K.J. Hill, Marquise Simmons.

The win caps a perfect 9-0 season and a 16-0 record over the past two years. This year’s nine wins, Jones said, might not be repeated anytime soon. Some conference schools, including Scotland, might soon choose to eliminate their ninth grade football teams.

The two consecutive perfect seasons is somewhat unique. Each year, Jones gets a new crop of players. He and his coaching staff don’t have the luxury of having players for any longer than a single season. But part of what makes it so difficult for the Raiders to duplicate is what makes the varsity program — 10-0 this season headed into Friday’s home contest against Scotland — so successful.

Beginning in middle school, the players run the same system. Jones credited varsity coach Paul Hoggard with implementing the idea of a feeder system.

“Our guys are getting, essentially, varsity-level coaching in the ninth grade,” said Jones, noting that the entire program includes offseason conditioning to the last game of the season. “I’m there on Friday nights (at the varsity games). We learn from them, and we do what they do. And they’re pretty freakin’ good at what they do.”

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