PONTOTOC – Maikhail Miller took the term “workhorse” to a new level Friday against the Pontotoc Warriors.
By the end of the first quarter, the Itawamba AHS senior had 96 yards rushing.
By the end of the contest, he had carried the football 45 times.
Miller ground out 270 yards rushing and totaled five touchdowns, helping carry IAHS into a certain post-season berth in a 33-17 victory over the Warriors in a Division 1-4A battle with plenty of playoff implications.
“Miller is a great player, and he does enjoy running the ball,” Itawamba coach Ashley Kuhn said of his quarterback and Ole Miss signee. “We were going to do whatever it took to give us the best chance to win, and this week, this is what it took.
“These kids have a lot of pride, and now we’re in the playoffs, and that’s our main concern.”
The victory does clinch a playoff spot for Itawamba (6-4, 3-1). Two loses to end the season could have pushed the Indians completely out of the post-season, and now, a victory over Shannon next Friday could pull IAHS up to a No. 2 spot out of 1-4A.
Conversely, the loss put Pontotoc (5-5, 1-3) into a must-win situation in its last contest of the regular season against county rival North Pontotoc for the fourth and final berth from the division.
“The winner gets to go to Lafayette County, and if you don’t go, you can’t win,” Pontotoc coach Charlie Dampeer said of his Warriors playoff hopes. “We had a hard time stopping Miller tonight.”
While Miller dominated the contest on the ground, he showcased his arm on the Indians first touchdown of the contest, a nifty 36-yard pass to Jimmy Ruff. Miller did throw the ball twice, completing two for 67 yards.
The rest of Itawamba’s offense this contest was pretty simple – a direct snap to Miller, who then just ran.
Miller’s first rushing TD came later in the first quarter on a 13-yard run. In the second period, Miller scored on a 1-yard plunge, and had 143 yards by the halftime break as IAHS led 21-7.
In the third quarter, Miller found the end zone on a 20-yard run. He then finished off his scoring with a fourth quarter run of 2 yards.
“We got back to playing some smash-mouth football,” Kuhn said. “And our defensive staff came up with a good plan, and the team played great defense tonight.”
Never completely looking in sync offensively, Pontotoc scored in the second quarter on a 41-yard reception by Rashad Dixon. In the third, Michael Bounds kicked a 29-yard field goal, and Dixon return an interception 53 yards for a score.
David Wheeler/NEMS Daily Journal