A week ago, Yukon High School graduated about 550 seniors. The ceremony was especially hard for the football program, which saw most of its starters walk across the stage to the next chapter of their lives.
The football graduates leave a big hole on the defensive side with all but one now gone.
Cade Peters, the Millers’ only returning defensive starter, is up for the challenge.
“I feel like I’m ready for it,” Peters said. “The former players, they taught me so much and I played my sophomore and junior year. I feel like that helped me a lot having that experience and having those leaders who taught me how to do it. I’m just trying to base my leadership off them,” Peters said.
This year, Peters will be asked to take on a leadership role. He’ll be looking to speak up in the locker room.
“I’m going to try to do what the former players did to me. They pushed me hard, they told me when I was wrong but they never yelled at me. Any time I did something wrong, they would tell me to get up, tell me what I did wrong and they told me how I could be better,” Peters said.
Being a vocal leader, however, will be something new.
Peters is regarded throughout the program as quiet and reserved. Now, his voice will ring louder than ever.
“Cade is a quiet guy so when he talks, everybody does listen because he’s not a guy that talks all the time,” coach Jeremy Reed said. “Everybody does look to him to be a leader because he’s a guy that’s been on the field. He’s been through two years of being on the field for us.
“So, just by the nature of his experience, everybody considers him a leader.”
During his two years starting, the Millers have compiled records of 4-6 his sophomore year and 6-4 during his junior campaign.
This season will be schematically different for the Millers.
Don Nichols is the new defensive coordinator for Yukon. He comes from Jenks High School and brings a 3-4 defense.
“It’s a little different,” Peters said. “I feel like it’s going to be good for us because we’re lacking in defensive linemen. It’s more of a speed defense and I think that’s what we need.”
The change comes at a good time. This season’s defense will be filled with young players, with the exception of Peters.
And though they lack 6A experience, Peters says he’s confident in the group that has winning littered throughout their resumes.
“The underclassmen have won their whole lives, which is different than my class because we didn’t win much when we were little,” he said. “They know how to win and they’re physical. They don’t care who you are, they don’t care who they’re lining up to.”
The underclassmen will get a chance to prove themselves early.
Yukon will be on the road at Edmond North for week zero. The Millers will face the Huskies before putting the Canadian County Bedlam trophy up for grabs again. Allowing the young players time on the field week zero should play out in their favor.
“He (Reed) has us playing Edmond North week zero,” Peters said. “They’re a good team but I feel like that’s perfect for us because we need to get all those jitters out. All the young kids can be nervous. That’s just a perfect away game.”
However, Reed believes the players will release any anxiety before that point.
“I expect to do that (get rid of jitters) this week at team camp,” he said. “Obviously the first game will have its own set of circumstances but I really feel like at team camp and our first scrimmage in August, those will be times we can work toward that as well.”
Yukon will travel to Tulsa Union for team camp Wednesday and Thursday.
Peters will be looked upon in high regard and with his coaches at his side, the Miller defense should stand tall.
“He’s going to be a guy that truly leads on the field during games because he’s the only one out there that has a lot of experience,” Reed said. “He’s going to have to know when to calm guys down. He’s going to have to know when to get guys going from an energy standpoint. He’s going to have a very large job of being the father of the defense because he’s the only guy that’s got a lot of experience.”