LANSING - Michigan State running back commitment Onaje Miller played through cramps, aches and dings to rush for 134 yards and three touchdowns to help Lansing Sexton to a stunning 35-9 victory over Top 10-ranked Holt, Friday night.
Miller showed vision, cutting ability and speed in scampering to a 46-yard TD run on Sexton's first possession and the Big Reds didn't trail the rest of the night in scoring a statement victory over Holt, which went 11-2 a year ago and advanced all the way to the Division 1 (biggest class) state semifinals. The Detroit News ranked Holt a the No. 4 team in the state in all classifications heading into opening night, but Sexton served notice that it might have the goods to still be playing on Thanksgiving weekend.
"I think we are capable of winning the state championship," said Sexton head coach Dan Boggan. "If we can get healthy, stay healthy and stay focused and don't get too over-confident, we can win the whole thing. We're a Division 4 team, we don't have a lot of kids, we don't have a JV team, we had to bring all of our JV kids up to varsity, and there are only about 11 of them, and we played some of those sophomores. We would probably only have about 30 kids up here varsity-wise if we didn't bring up the JV. "
Sexton was out-numbered by Holt 81-40 on Friday night, but Holt had no one like Mr. Miller.
Miller scored TD runs of 46, 2 and 5 yards as Sexton built a 28-9 lead late in the third quarter, about the time that Miller had to be carried off the field due to cramps.
But Miller hydrated up, loosened up and went back into the game for two more carries to help Sexton move the ball off the goal line in the final minutes, and then checked out to cap a hard night's work, which included solid defensive play as an outside linebacker in Sexton's quick, 3-4 defense.
"I had a few cramp-ups in the leg, but it's all right, just a little slight breakdown," said Miller, who committed to MSU in February over offers from Michigan and Wisconsin.
As for the determination he showed in playing through pain most of the night.
"That's the weight room for you, that's why we beat Holt," Miller said. "We were hungrier than them, and we executed. It felt good, but we're just onto the next one now."
On the tone-setting 46-yard TD run, Miller received a key block from beefy fullback Dominique Hoyle cut inside, then eluded a linebacker, and outran a defensive back to the goal line.
"The line had good blocks, holes opened up and that's about it," Miller said of that run. "I just saw daylight, saw a seam and I just hit it."
Boggan said Miller had been pointing to this game for months.
"Onaje has been waiting for this moment since last year, when he did get shut down by Holt," Boggan said. "All last year, even in the middle of the season, he talked about how he couldn't wait to play Holt again.
"He has worked his butt off in the weight room. He has done everything to prepare for this moment and this season. He has a lot of goals he wants to accomplish, and this was one of them, having a very good game against a very good team in Holt.
"I told him, 'It's just one game. It was an outstanding one but it' s just one game.
"He did all the little things to get himself prepared, got up at 5:30 in the morning and would lift and work out. He had a hamstring injury that hurt him during his track season and during the summer and I was worried about that. He was probably about 95 percent going into two-a-days and our trainers did a good job taking care of him.
"He is not 100 percent. And he had to go both ways and we talked about that all during the off-season, when you're lifting, we talk about all of the things that you have to do to sacrifice for game day, to be ready for your senior year. He has continued to get treatment and try to stay as healthy as possible and hopefully we can get him to 100 percent soon."
Miller is ranked the No. 12 player in the state by Rivals.com.
"What you saw (tonight) was a fragment of what he can really be," Boggan said. "And I was super proud of him. He didn't want to come out of the game at times, but we made him. He's a tough kid. State has a great, great kid in Onaje Miller."
Boggan wasn't surprised by Miller's tenacity.
"I have seen him come back from little nicknacks," Boggan said. "I knew if it wasn't torn off that he was going back in there. He is a very tough kid.
"He played with a partial broken collar bone the last four games of last year and we didn't even know it because he was hiding it from us and we found out about it in the middle of the Dewitt game."
Sexton went 8-3 a year ago and advanced to the second round of the state playoffs.
"People say we're not disciplined enough, not focused enough, we're not coaching them well enough, all the things the critics love to say, but I think our kids did an outstanding job of playing and I'm excited to say we're still here baby," Boggan said. "We're still Sexton. We're still here."
And they'll be better if and when Miller gets back up to full strength.
"He's a captain of this football team," Boggan said. "He is one of the guys we look to for a lot of leadership. His whole mentality in practice, he is preparing himself to get ready to play at the next level. We have been telling him the whole year, how he has to be different, because he is going to State, with all of the expectations, so we need to start preparing now to get ready to compete at that level. So he is getting his mind ready. I can't wait to have him at 100 percent so that people can see how good he is."
Sexton Sleeper Recruits
Boggan had a good feeling that his team could surprise Holt. But the play of Sexton's young, unproven o-line served as a minor, pleasant surprise to the head coach.
"We're young on the offensive line," Boggan said. "I got clearance right before game time that my senior tackle, DaMarco Bisbee, with a fracture in a small bone in his leg, was able to play. The doctors said as long as it was padded up he'd be fine. He played his butt off with that broken leg. He can't hardly run, and he is giving everything he's got, and he is the epitome of what toughness is."
Boggan said Bisbee (6-4, 300) is being scouted by Northern Illinois, Central Michigan, Western Michigan and Eastern Michigan.
"No offers yet, but it seems like Central is going to," Boggan said. "He's going to get some offers. And when he heals, they are going to see something special."
Elsewhere on the roster, senior cornerback Greg Scott (5-9, 175) had two interceptions against Holt, including one he returned for a TD.
"Holt threw it his way twice, and he intercepted both of them," Boggan said. "I think he is one of the best corners in the state."
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