Warriors Athlete of Week: Quarterback does whatever's necessary to help Brainerd win
If Sam Miller joins Brainerd's 1,000-yard passing club, it will mean that he and the Warriors are flourishing in a postseason run.
The senior quarterback enters Saturday's Class 5A playoff semifinal against Alexandria 102 passing yards shy of 1,000. He's also thrown for nine touchdowns and completed 58.4 percent of his passes (66 of 113).
"Sam is cool under pressure," Warriors coach Ron Stolski said. "He stands right in there and makes the throws. He's particularly accurate on midrange throws and has gotten better on the long ball. He reads coverages very well. He's adding a dimension we know we need in terms of balance. He's very accurate."
Miller is surrounded by a receiver corps that not only catches the ball, but blocks. Pat Gervenak, Owen Davis, Gabe Smith and Levi McDonald have combined to catch 58 of Miller's 66 completions.
"They're all key blocking," Miller said, "And they all can get themselves open and make the catch for receiving."
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- Sport: Football
- Position: Quarterback
- Year: Senior
- Age: 18
- Height: 5-11
- Career highlight: Throwing game-winning TD pass against Moorhead in 2016
- Other sports: Baseball
- Grade-point average: 3.7
- Favorite class: Welding
- Favorite food: Tater tot hotdish
- Favorite movie: "Forrest Gump"
- Favorite TV show: "Trailer Park Boys"
- Favorite website: "YouTube"
- Future plans: Attend Minnesota State Community and Technical College Wadena, become electrical line worker
- Favorite athlete: Minnesota Vikings receiver Adam Thielen
- Parents: Mike and Laurie Miller
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The offensive line protects Miller in the passing game and opens holes for him to run through. He's the team's second-leading rusher with 406 yards (102 attempts, 4-yard average per carry) and six TDs. Isaac Chappuis, Nate Bessingpas, Brett Hague, Garret Gardiepy and Jason Jennette have been the Warriors' primary players in the trenches.
'They've all been good throughout the season," Miller said. "Now they're starting to really figure things out. They communicate on the line. They really open up the holes. They just get good blocks."
Miller's ability to run as well as throw adds a dimension to the Warrior offense.
"He's kind of a prototype option quarterback," Stolski said. "In the option, you encourage not only the run game, but the passing game as well."
Miller's production this fall includes five 100-yard passing games with a high-water mark of 211 yards in a victory over Sauk Rapids, which was unbeaten at the time. His best rushing game was 107 yards and a TD against Moorhead. Against Sartell last week, Miller passed for 116 yards and two scores and rushed for 83 yards and a TD.
In the season's first five games, Miller threw seven interceptions. He has been turnover-free in the last three—victories against Becker, Moorhead and Sartell.
"It's just going through the progressions better instead of forcing things and being over aggressive on who I'm throwing to," Miller said of cutting down on interceptions.
Stolski said Miller has steadily improved from the beginning of the season to the postseason which explains his improving accuracy.
"He's making better decisions where to throw the ball," Stolski said. "Early on he was throwing those interceptions. He hasn't turned the ball over, I don't think, in the last three games. That's really helpful."
Miller lends a helping hand to his team in other ways. He holds on extra points and field goals. He's also a leader by example.
"Sam's demeanor is that he's just quiet," Stolski said. "In our scout work, if we need another scout player, all of a sudden I see him on the kickoff team or I see him somewhere just because of his commitment to serve; his desire to do what's necessary."