It’s Miller time

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 26, 2004

It didn’t matter which quarterback handed Rafel Miller the ball Friday night. The only thing that mattered was he got it.

The junior running back gave Dallas County coach Rick Bush an early birthday present, as he scored four touchdowns in the Hornets’ 43-0 win over the Keith Bears.

“Rafel told me he wasn’t getting the ball enough,” said Bush, who celebrated his 35th birthday on Saturday, the day after the victory. “He only had 15 touches for 240 yards, so we decided to give him the ball.

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“When you’ve got an athlete who will work hard,” Bush added, “what more could you ask for?”

Miller scored on runs on 9, 12 and 11 yards, and added a 57-yard punt return for a touchdown as the Hornets improved to 3-1.

Keith dropped to 0-4 on the season.

“Birthdays come and go,” Bush said. “But victories, you have to fight for them.

“I thought we executed pretty well offensively,” Bush added. “We did a better job on defense in the second half.”

Although the Hornets’ defense did not allow a point, the group drew their coach’s wrath with a lack of physical play that allowed Keith to nearly get in the game.

Keith quarterback Ladarrius Jones was the victim of several dropped passes in the first half, including one that went through a Keith receiver’s hands and into the arms of Hornets’ senior defensive back Walter Hunter at the Dallas County 24.

Hunter found an opening down the Dallas County sideline and returned the pick to the Bears’ 12-yard line. Two plays later, Miller bolted through the middle of the Keith defense for a 9-yard scoring run that gave Dallas County a 6-0 lead with 3:41 remaining in the first period.

“We moved the ball in spots in the first quarter,” Keith coach Harry Crum said. “But we dropped a lot of passes that should have been caught. We can’t afford to make mistakes like that.

“I’m not saying we could have beaten Dallas County,” Crum added. “But if we would have caught those passes, we could have made it a more competitive game.”

The Bears missed another opportunity to score when they drove to the Hornets’ 28, only to have another third-down pass dropped. Miller fielded the subsequent punt at his 43 and found a seam en route to a 57-yard punt return for a score that put Dallas County ahead 12-0 with 1:32 to go in the first quarter.

On its ensuing drive, Keith went to the ground, with four different running backs carrying the Bears to the Dallas County 31. But Keith senior back Joshua Aguero was met by the Dallas County linebacker corps for a three-yard loss on third down. The fourth-down pass by Jones was intercepted by Hornets’ defensive back Kenyatta McDonald at the Dallas County 19 to halt the drive.

Four plays later, freshman quarterback Jacob Paxton – replacing injured Derrick McGhee – found Sim Melton down the Dallas County sideline. Melton broke two tackles and went in for a 37-yard scoring play that gave the Hornets an 18-0 advantage with 7:03 to go before halftime.

A stern Dallas County defense and a short punt put the Hornets back in business at the Keith 25. Four plays later, Miller scored his second rushing touchdown of the game, a 12-yard rumble around the right end, that extended the Dallas County lead to 24-0 with 3:40 to go in the first half.

Miller set up his own score with an 18-yard run off the right tackle to the Bears’ 3, before a sack of McGhee put the Hornets back to the 12.

Dallas County wasn’t done.

Hornets’ linebacker Michael Johnson came through with a huge stop on third down, dragging down Keith running back Clyde Moise at the Bears’ 5. A short punt once again gave Dallas County great field position at the Bears’ 27.

Two plays later, McGhee hit Johnson with a screen pass. Johnson broke a tackle and went in from 27 yards out to make it 30-0.

The Dallas County defense again came up with a big play midway through the third quarter when linebacker Dalton Anthony recovered a Keith fumble at the Bears’ 11.

On the next play, Miller scrambled to his right and ran over a Keith linebacker on the Hornets’ side of the field en route to an 11-yard scoring run. McGhee’s first extra point of the game made it 37-0 with 7:13 to go in the period.

On the ensuing kickoff, the Bears fumbled and Dallas County’s Demius Jackson fell on the ball at the Keith 22.

The Hornets cashed in three plays later when McGhee connected with Johnson on a 7-yard scoring toss to cap the scoring at 43-0.