The 2016 football season came to an end on November 4 for the Yukon Millers. Yukon did not have the season they had hoped for going into the new year back in August.
The Millers finished the season with an 0-10 record. Throughout the year, different voices from around the community talked about what changes need to be made to the Yukon football program that could help get their beloved Millers back on the winning side of the scoreboard.
There was talk of changing styles of play to changing the coaching staff. There was also talk of the players just not being very talented.
As the lone journalist who had the honor of covering this group of young men every week, I can honestly sit here and tell you, it wasn’t the style of play, it wasn’t the coaching staff and it most definitely was not because the players were not talented.
If those people around the Yukon community had gone to just one practice or even to just one game this season, they would have seen a group of young men, who came to the football facility every day with great attitudes and worked extremely hard to get better every time they took the field.
It would have been easy for these 15,16,17 and 18-year-old boys to hang it up after week five or week six, but they didn’t.
One Westmoore father said it best on the last weekend of the 2016 season when Yukon traveled to Moore to take on the Jaguars. After the Millers were going toe-to-toe with the playoff-bound Westmoore squad, the father, who was on the chain gang for WM looked at me and said, “Yukon is not a regular 0-9 team.”
He was right.
Every time Yukon left the field, they did so with their heads held high because they gave their opponent all they wanted, no matter who it was on the other sidelines.
In nearly every game this season, the Millers were in a tightly-contested battle with their opponent but a series of poor possessions or a couple of big turnovers and the other team would create a cushion that Yukon could not overcome.
In fact, there were only two games all season where Yukon was truly overmatched, and those were against No. 1 Jenks and No. 2 Norman North, who are both unbeaten going into the 2016 playoffs and crushed nearly every team they played.
The Millers’ had one of the toughest schedules in the entire state, as 80 percent of their games were against playoff teams. Mustang, Norman North, Southmoore, Broken Arrow, Jenks, Edmond Santa Fe and Westmoore are all 6A-1 playoff teams and Sand Springs is a playoff team in 6A-2.
The reason Yukon had to play the Sandites was because U.S. Grant did not play in 6A-1 this year, so they only had six district games, which forced them to go and find a game to fill the void on the schedule.
The only two teams the Millers played in 2016 that were not playoff teams were Norman and Edmond Memorial and both of those games were highly-contested ballgames.
As far as the coaching staff goes, it is always very easy to blame the coaches when a team is not having success. Let me say this, no coach is perfect. Every coach in the world makes mistakes every practice and every game. Yukon’s coaching staff is no different but by no means is the 0-10 season their fault.
Head coach Brian Sauser’s ability to keep this group of young men focused and motivated until the very last second of the season shows how strong of a connection he had with his players and at the high school level, that is very difficult to find.
As the Millers enter the offseason and already begin to prepare for the 2017 season, they can hold their heads high that they never quit, no matter how tough it got throughout the season. The seniors who played their final game in a Yukon jersey last Friday night can hold their heads high knowing they left everything they had on the field for their program.
So, I would ask the Yukon community one thing. Do not speak badly of this team, these coaches and especially these young men. They may not have had the results they wanted on the scoreboard but they represented their program, their school and most of all the Yukon community with a lot of heart and a lot of pride.