There’s an old saying, “safety comes first”, when talking about something that is potentially dangerous.
Playing defense in this era of football could be considered dangerous and without good safety play, a defense is going to struggle.
Fortunately for Yukon, they have two seniors who not only man those safety positions, they relish in them.
Conner Sudduth and Elijah Wallace are the starting safeties for the Miller defense this year and together, they are making lives miserable for receivers and running backs who dare to come into Yukon’s defensive backfield.
The hard-hitting duo has a combined 35 tackles through three games and two interceptions. Sudduth has 18 tackles, while Wallace has 17 tackles and two interceptions. One of those interceptions was taken 56 yards for a touchdown in the season-opener against Edmond North.
Sudduth and Wallace have helped Yukon to a 3-0 start for the first time since 2010 and are leading a defense that is giving up 13.2 points per game and didn’t allow a point to an opposing offense until the third game against Moore. The Millers had a bye week this week and will return to action when they open district play at 7 p.m. Friday against Norman at home.
“We played dominant in those first two games, especially on the line of scrimmage,” Wallace said. “The D-line does a great job for us. The back end of the defense has done well for the most part. We haven’t given up many big plays. We had a couple of breakdowns in the first half of the Moore game, but we came out in the second half and played better. We are looking forward to a big game against Norman.”
Sudduth echoed his teammate’s comments.
“We were lights out in the first two games,” the senior safety said. “We had minimal mistakes and we ran to the ball and made the tackles. We came out flat against Moore. We are going to be ready to go against Norman.”
Moore put up 21 points on the Millers in the first half in their Sept. 7 meeting. Wallace said it brought the defense back to down to earth.
“It definitely showed us that we haven’t arrived yet,” he said. “It gave us a dose of reality for sure.”
“They shocked us in that first half,” Sudduth added. “It definitely woke us up.”
The safety positions in football can be some of the most challenging on the field. Sudduth and Wallace talked about the difficulties of playing in the back end of the defense and what their responsibilities include.
“We just have to make sure everyone is lined up before the snap,” Sudduth said. “We have to fill gaps, stay over the top on pass plays and get the calls to everyone.”
“We are the quarterbacks of the defense,” Wallace added. “We have to know what everyone is supposed to do. We are the last line of defense. If we mess up, the other teams start firing up the band.”
The two safeties have been playing football together since they were in seventh grade and have been manning the back end of the defense since they were playing on the freshmen team.
Both players played on both sides of the ball through their sophomore seasons, then officially moved to defense full time.
“It comes easy working together,” Sudduth said. “We are pretty much closer than blood brothers. We know the defense inside and out, study opponents, go play and help each other out. We make sure we each know the call.”
Wallace said he and Sudduth are close now, but that wasn’t always the case.
“We like to have fun with each other and give each other a hard time, but we trust each other to go do our jobs,” he said. “We are really close off the field. We actually didn’t used to be friends back in middle school. We started getting close around sophomore year and now we are like brothers.”
Playing the safety positions can also be one of the more fun positions to play in football. Both players talked about why they love playing in the backend.
“I love to go crack someone on a run play,” Sudduth said. “I also like to get a big turnover in a big spot in the game.”
“I play more of the strong safety position, so I like to blitz and make big plays in the run game,” Wallace added. “I like to get big hits from the blind side when they offensive play isn’t expecting it.”
Yukon is preparing to head into the tougher portion of its schedule in the next five weeks. The Millers host a much-improved Norman team Friday, travel to Edmond Santa Fe Sept. 28, host Jenks Oct. 5, travel to Westmoore on Oct. 12 and host Broken Arrow Oct. 18.
Sudduth and Wallace talked about what it is going to take for Yukon to have success in that stretch of games.
“We need to have really energetic practices,” Wallace said. “We need to bring the fight in practice and have a high motor. We need to focus on the details and prepare ourselves for tougher games that are going to come down to the wire.”
“We need to bring the energy and be sound in practice,” Sudduth said. “We need to continue to help each other, fly around, do our jobs, be disciplined and bring the fight.”