New QB steps in for Norton
Published on -9/4/2012, 10:48 AM
By CONOR NICHOLL
NORTON -- Norton Community High School senior Dalton Miller was close to earning the starting quarterback job last season, but ended up as the backup to Jordan Wahlmeier. The Bluejays finished 3-6 as Wahlmeier completed 49-of-133 passes for 876 yards with nine touchdowns against 10 interceptions.
That included a 2-of-11 performance for 19 yards with no touchdowns against two interceptions in a blowout loss versus Smith Center. Miller threw just two passes, both incomplete, all year.
On Friday, Miller had his first career start and delivered a performance on par, or better, than the Bluejays' past several starters, several of whom earned all-league honors.
Miller completed 11-of-17 passes for 153 yards with one touchdown with no interceptions, and rushed for one score in the Bluejays' 34-13 season-opening home victory against Smith Center at Travis Field.
"That's what he has been doing at practice, he has been making good decisions with the ball," Bluejay coach Lucas Melvin said. "He throws it right pretty much where it needs to be. That's obviously a huge benefit for our offense and kudos to Dalton."
Since 2006, Miller is the fifth quarterback to start for Norton, joining Logan Kats, Connor Pfannenstiel, Spencer Shirk and Wahlmeier. Those four quarterbacks averaged between 74 and 97 passing yards per contest.
Wahlmeier had the lowest quarterback rating of the group at 99.5, according to the NCAA efficiency formula available at stassen.com. The rest of the other starters produced at least a 120.1. Shirk, known for his heady play, led the group with a 157.4 in a 9-1 season in 2010.
Miller produced a quarterback rating of 159.7.
"He has stepped up," Melvin said.
Miller found a variety of receivers, especially on short routes. Five Bluejays caught a pass, including five catches for 92 yards and a touchdown from senior Andrew Ellis, also making his first varsity start.
"We look for whoever is open," Miller said. "We don't really look at one guy."
In the offseason, Miller, Ellis and senior Jacob Brooks, the team's top returning offensive player who rushed for a team-high 99 yards and caught two passes, went up to the practice field several times in the summer to work on routes.
"It helped a lot," Miller said. "We came together. We weren't very good and then our timing, it got down real good."
"It's good to know that our hard work paid off, but we have got to keep going hard," Ellis added. "It's a good relationship between me and Dalton. We played last year on junior varsity. It's always fun when he is throwing."
After the game, the Norton players wore smiles as they received congratulations from friends, family and fans on the field. Near the end, Brooks, Miller and Ellis joined together for a photo to punctuate the victory.
"They are my best friends," Brook said. "We always hang out. We have dreamed of this since we were little kids, since we were playing WKFL, saying that we were going to start at football, just play at varsity. This is great. This whole thing is great. The team played awesome."
Line plays well
Norton went against Smith Center's offensive and defensive lines that didn't return a single starter from last season. Senior lineman Lucas Engel didn't look at the Redmen's line as being young, though.
"You try not to look at it that way," Engel said. "We try to look at it as they are the other team's line and we've just got to go out there and do better than they do."
Norton played better up front, especially in the second half. Smith Center scored once after intermission when it tacked on a virtually inconsequential score with five seconds left.
"Of course, they are experienced," Smith Center coach Roger Barta said. "Most of those kids played last year and we are in the process of learning how to play."
Engel recorded two tackles for loss, including a sack. Junior Cole Renner had a fumble recovery and 0.5 tackle for loss. Senior Dylan Sprigg collected a sack and fumble recovery. Junior Kolton Harting collected a sack.
The linebackers and defensive backs also made some big plays. Ellis had a sack and a quarterback hurry, and senior linebacker John Risewick also collected a tackle for loss.
"They are a part that we are going to rely on doing well," Melvin said. "To me, in high school football, if you have a good line, then a lot of things can happen."
Molzahn steps up
Smith Center junior Kody Molzahn, seeing significant carries for the first time in his young career, led the Redmen with 13 carries for 149 yards and caught one pass, a 60-yard touchdown. Molzahn also tallied an 80-yard run for a TD.
"Kody is a good athlete and he is a good competitor. ... and he plays hard and he is a smart kid," Barta said.
Smith Center has another difficult test this Friday with a road game at Beloit. The Redmen haven't lost a regular season non-conference contest since a Week 8 defeat to Beloit in 2002.
"It doesn't get any easier, no, then we have got Phillipsburg (in Week 4) after that," Barta said. "It's a tough road to go."