Chaparral High‘s sophomore quarterback Jack Miller had something to prove, and what better way to do it than to direct a 33-7 blow-out over a defending state champion that had won 17 of its last 18 games?
Jack Miller III is trying to live up to the hype that began to build when he hit the national news after getting an offer earlier this summer from Ohio State — as a 14-year-old freshman. He also has offers from both University of Arizona and Arizona State and a handful of others, but that offer from the 2014 national champion Buckeyes at such an early age put a target on his back for every other college recruiter in the nation.
But his sophomore debut this season didn’t match up to the expectations.
His first start of the season came in a humiliating 54-16 loss when the Firebirds traveled to California to play Valencia High School on Sept. 8. Miller completed just 16 of his 33 pass attempts and was sacked seven times.
However, it was a totally different story last Friday when Miller and his new teammates rolled over Gilbert’s Williams Field High School as if the defending 5A state champion was little more than a small speed bump on the way to a deep run in the state playoffs this season.
There were no sacks this time, and Miller threw for 162 yards and three touchdowns and then added another TD with his feet to post the 33-7 win. All three passing scores were to different receivers, with sophomore wide receiver Tommy Christakos putting the first points on the board at the start of the first quarter when Miller found him open in the back of the end zone. Junior wide receiver Marcus Norvell II and senior running back Conlan Carey added the other TD receptions.
The Firebirds ran off their entire 33 points before Williams Field was able to put up its lone score.
Williams Field had strung together 17 wins, stretching back to the final game of the 2015 season, before getting beat the week before by Verrado High. Now the Blackhawks are 3-2 and in jeopardy of posting their worse won-loss record since 2011 when they went 8-3. For the last five seasons they have averaged 11 wins.
The Williams Field game was Chaparral’s fourth game of the season, but only Miller’s second appearance. His debut didn’t happen until Valencia because his eligibility to play for the Firebirds this season was being held up while awaiting the outcome of an appeal to the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA).
For the first two games, senior Davis Chauhan took the snaps, passing for 416 yards and five touchdowns.
Miller had played his freshman year at Scottsdale Christian Academy, where he broke a couple of state records, but an incident involving the death of a family friend who was killed while crossing the street to watch him play at SCA created emotional issues for the youngster and his family didn’t want him returning this year to face the reminders of a traumatic incident. The dual-threat QB threw for 3,653 yards and 53 touchdowns, and rushed for another 1,200 yards as a freshman.
So the player selected by 247 Sports as the nation’s top quarterback in the Class of 2020 decided to take his considerable talents to Chaparral. Under the AIA guidelines, that would normally require sitting out the first five games of the next season. Miller’s hardship request was denied at first and his family entered an appeal to the ruling, resulting in a delay that caused him to miss the first two games while the appeal was considered, a 28-27 loss to Desert Mountain High School and a 24-20 win over Horizon High.
After the Millers hired an attorney to represent their son in the appeal presentation to the AIA Board, it was finally decided that the transfer was not motivated by sports and Miller was cleared to play by the third game.
Chaparral’s unexpected gift means more than success this season. Miller is already into his second season of varsity ball and has 2+ years to still contribute to head coach Thomas Lewis. The ‘gift’ arrived at just the right time, too, since Lewis lost a three-year starting QB to graduation last spring.
At 6’3″ and 205 pounds, the youngster is already big enough to play Division I, and has all the tools to go with the size…the arm strength to throw deep, impressive accuracy, the ability to run when needed, and composure beyond his years.
Miller never had the luxury of playing under the recruiting radar. And now he has three more years to deal with the scrutiny and media attention that is sure to follow.
That’s a lot to handle for a kid who hasn’t been to his first prom yet.