Higley defense holds Millennium in check

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Sam Ganczaruk

For West Valley Preps

Millennium wasn’t ready for the bright lights just yet.

The previously unbeaten Tigers struggled offensively Friday as visiting Gilbert Higley upended Millennium, 36-7, in 5A action.

“Higley hit us in the mouth,” Tigers coach Lamar Early said. “They took away some things that we wanted to do, and we didn’t respond very well. That’s why the score is the way it is.”

Millennium (3-1) had broken 30 points in all three of its wins this season but Higley (3-2) had a defensive scheme to take away Jalan Early’s ability to create big plays. On early downs the Knights stuffed the run forcing third-and-longs which allowed Higley to blitz and get defenders in the star quarterbacks face all night long.

“We knew that they were going to throw the ball, so we wanted to give them some different looks in that down and distance,” Higley coach Eddy Zubey said. “That is something we definitely did and frustrated them.”

Higley found the endzone in the first quarter when star running back Isaiah Eastman capped an 8-play, 67-yard drive with a 6-yard TD run.

Although Millennium didn’t earn a first down in the opening quarter, the Tigers had their best offensive drive of the game after recovering a Higley fumble at its own 39 with 2:02 left in the second.

Jalan Early found a streaking Treydan Stukes down the sideline for a 46-yard pass. On the ensuing play, Jalan found the end zone on a 5-yard keeper.

“You try to find that spark and we thought we had,” Lamar Early said.

But Higley wouldn’t let Millennium feel good for long as Brail Lipford returned the kickoff to the Tigers 25 and Millner found Truitt Robinson for a 25-yard touchdown pass to put the Knights up 14-7 in just 16 seconds.

“Every time we did something good, we just shot ourselves in the foot,” Lamar Early said.

The third quarter was a slugfest defensively until Higley put together a four-play drive that started at its own 47 and was finished when Eastman snaked his way to the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown run. The senior finished with 162 yards on 21 carries.

“We know Isaiah is our guy and we needed to give him the ball,” Zubey said. “We took advantage with our offensive line.”

During the fourth quarter the proverbial roof caved in on Millennium as the Tigers committed a safety by snapping the ball through the back of the end zone when trying to punt. On the ensuing drive Eastman broke away for 24-yard touchdown run to put Higley in control, 29-7, with 6:24 left.

“We didn’t help ourselves at all,” Lamar Early said.

Millennium doesn’t have time to feel sorry for itself because the Tigers will face the back-to-back state 5A champion Centennial Coyotes next week.

Millennium senior running back Jahreal James (24) takes the ball on a run-pass option as quarterback Jalen Early (8) is hit by Higley senior defensive end Mason Moskowitz (85) during the second half of their 5A football game on Friday, Sept. 20.

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