The first round of the new Open Division high school football playoffs is in the history books. And with it, the career of one of the most promising high school quarterbacks to come out of Arizona.
While it’s not the way Jack Miller wanted to end his high school career, at least now he can begin focusing on his future as he looks ahead to joining the football program at Ohio State after he wraps up his academic requirements next month and gets an early start in Columbus.
But the story of the young quarterback who was suddenly thrust into the national spotlight while still in eighth grade didn’t conclude with the storybook ending everyone had hoped would happen.
Miller was good enough this season to lead his Chaparral High School Firebirds to an 8-3 record and a berth in the new Open Division championships, which are reserved for the top eight teams from across the 4A, 5A, and 6A conferences. Those teams were selected using computer analytics and strength of schedule to create for the first time an event that would crown a ‘true state champion.’
But his team was the No. 8 seed, which meant the Firebirds drew the top-seeded Chandler High Wolves in the opening round.
Chandler completely dominated their Scottsdale opponents, on both sides of the ball. Tough way to end a season – and a career.
Miller was harassed throughout the game by a swarming Chandler defense. He threw two interceptions and fumbled the ball away for a third turnover. With Miller under center, the Firebirds had been averaging 40 points a game, but Chandler’s suffocating defense held Chaparral to just two scores on the way to a 56-14 romp.
And the Wolves’ offense was seemingly unstoppable, scoring in every quarter, taking a 36-7 halftime lead, and never once having to punt the ball.
On the other side of the ball, the Chandler offense used a three-man rotation in the backfield to churn up yardage. Despite playing just the first half (a possible knee injury just before halftime), Daveon Hunter led the way with 112 yards on eight carries and a touchdown, Nicolaas Nesbit finished with 96 yards and a TD, and Eli Sanders contributed 73 yards and three touchdowns.
The Chandler defense was ready for Miller, as most teams have been all season long. That’s the price a top-tier quarterback pays for being on every team’s radar. And Miller has had a target on his back since before he made his debut as a freshman at Scottsdale Christian Academy.
He was just 14 years old when Urban Meyer took the unprecedented step of offering the youngster a scholarship to Ohio State. After a couple years of consideration, he committed to the Buckeyes in his sophomore year, right after transferring to Chaparral. It had to be a tough decision since he also had offers from 18 other top college programs including Alabama, Michigan, LSU, and Auburn.
Expectations for success at Chaparral were through the roof since Miller had proven himself during his one season at SCA when he broke a couple of state records, throwing for 3,653 yards and 53 touchdowns, while rushing for another 1,200 yards. He was named by 247Sports as the nation’s top quarterback in the Class of 2020.
It hasn’t been a smooth ride since those glory days at SCA. He sat out the first couple of games of his sophomore season awaiting the results of a transfer hardship appeal, missed the last three games of his junior year due to a knee injury, and now finds his senior year cut short of his ultimate goal: a state championship.
Nonetheless, he entered this season ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 4 pro-style quarterback in his recruiting class.
But now, Miller will likely be following the playoff run of the Chandler team that made his life so difficult, to see how other teams will handle the challenge. Tomorrow night, the No. 1 Wolves will take on No. 4 Salpointe Catholic in the Open Division semifinals at Hamilton High School in Chandler.