January 2017 … the Yukon Public Schools school board approved the hiring of Jeremy Reed as its new head football coach.
The Millers were coming off a dreadful 0-10 football season in 2016 and a combined 2-18 mark in the previous two years.
Yukon football was in the cellar of 6A-1 and wasn’t showing any signs of climbing out.
The hiring of Reed brought hope to the Yukon football program, but that hope came with reservation around the community. The citizens of Yukon had been there before with a coaching carousel that rivaled the University of Kansas, so the skepticism was rampant.
Along with Reed, the flexbone offensive system was entering Yukon. There were numerous debates on whether the triple-option offense would work at the highest class of high school football in Oklahoma.
After nearly two years, Reed has changed the culture, the mindset and overall outlook of Miller football and the flexbone offense is a big reason why the transformation has taken place.
It hasn’t been a smooth road. There have been plenty of bumps along the way, but that is the normality for every style of offense.
What the flexbone did for Yukon is bring a level of physicality to the Miller football program that had been lacking for numerous years.
“The offense fits the mentality and athletes we have in our program,” Reed said. “If there is such a thing, it can be the equalizer when going up against teams that are more talented than you are. It gives us a chance in every game we play. Nobody else does it and it gives us an advantage.”
One of the many positives of the offense is what it takes to run it at a high level.
“It forces you to play with discipline and toughness,” Reed said. Those are two things we pride ourselves in as a program.”
The flexbone offense has made Yukon competitive in nearly every game it has played since Reed and his staff took over. In two years, the Millers have only been out of the game by halftime twice and both times came against Broken Arrow.
The run-heavy offense also allows the Yukon defense to stay off the field and get plenty of rest in between each defensive series.
The 2018 version of the Yukon offense hasn’t performed up to Reed’s standards, especially when it comes to scoring.
“We have not scored the way we would like,” he said. “When this offense doesn’t work, it is because the execution hasn’t been there and that is on me. I take ownership of that. I am extremely unhappy with the lack of production and scoring from this offense this year. No one is harder on me than myself. I believe in this offense and I believe in what we do. As long as I am here, this will be what I do offensively. If they ever decide they want to run something else, I will resign.”
Even though the Millers have struggled to put points on the board this season, they have had success moving the ball against everyone they have played.
No one, including Jenks and Broken Arrow, has completely stopped Yukon this year and no one stopped the Millers last year in Reed’s first year on the job.
Execution is to blame for Yukon’s mishaps in the scoring department, not the style of offense.
The Millers started the season 4-0 with wins over Edmond North, Mustang, Moore and Norman. They have had a disappointing last four weeks with four-straight losses to Edmond Santa Fe, Jenks, Westmoore and Broken Arrow.
Needless to say, the level of competition ramped up in the last four weeks, but Yukon still had success moving the ball.
“We moved the ball up and down the field in the Edmond Santa Fe and Westmoore games,” Reed said. “We just had crucial turnovers and penalties that killed us in those games. We even moved the ball well against Jenks and at times against Broken Arrow.”
A misconception about this offense is its ability to get a team back into games if its opponent gets a multiple touchdown lead.
“I have had several games in my career where we have had to come back when we have gotten down by 14 points,” Reed said. “We just keep doing what we are doing and we work our way back into games. We keep running our offense and good things start to happen. We don’t panic. I don’t care who you are, if you are any team with any offense and you get down 21, it’s tough to come all the way back from that.”
Reed added that he would like to pass the ball better than Yukon has in his two years on the job.
“We just haven’t had the personnel to pass the ball more and with more effectiveness,” he said. “That is why we are so run-heavy right now.”
Explosive plays in football are considered to be plays that go for 20 yards or more. Yukon has had its fair share of those plays, but it looks different than it does for a spread offense.
“They happen quicker,” Reed said. “People don’t realize it because it’s different. We have as many big plays as most other people.”
In a perfect world situation, Yukon would have a quarterback that has a canon for an arm and numerous playmakers on the edge at receiver.
If Reed were ever handed such a situation, he said he would add another element to his offense.
“It would be fun to see that combination,” he said. “We would tailor the offense to fit the strength of our team. It would be fun to see this offense with a receiver that couldn’t be stopped one-on-one on the outside, so a defense would have to decide if they were going to stop the run or send help to the edge against the pass. We hope we have that ‘problem’ someday.”
The toughness, discipline and stability that the offensive system brings to Yukon doesn’t just reside with the offense. The defense has to go up against this offense every day in the spring and a lot in the preseason and even some during the regular season.
“It makes our whole team tougher,” Reed said. “It forces physicality. Look at Lincoln Riley down at OU. When he came to OU, he was all about the spread and passing the ball all the time coming out of the Mike Leach system. His offenses down there at OU are physical and they run the football and they take pride in it. The more physical team, the team that can run the football best, will most always win the game.”
Several years ago, teams across the state couldn’t wait to play Yukon. They didn’t fear the Millers. Now, no one looks forward to playing Yukon. The physicality, the triple-option and the change in mentality of the program has made the Millers a feared opponent for even the best teams in 6A-1.
Yukon has a great chance to finish the 2018 season with a 6-4 record and even though the Millers will not be present in the 6A-1 playoffs, considering where Yukon was several years ago, winning six games would be another huge step in the right direction.
Yukon football is back on the map and the flexbone offense is the key driving its success.
Kyle Salomon is the managing editor/sports editor for the Yukon Review and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.