For Yukon coach Jeremy Reed, there is a lot of soul searching in his future.
The Millers’ head football coach said this week that he will have to look hard at what went wrong this year when the Millers lost twice to their archrival.
Yukon opened and closed its season against Mustang.
Reed said 2020 has been a strange year, not just because of the double losses to Mustang, but because of everything that has happened.
“It’s been a strangest year. It’s been a strange year and a challenging year,” the coach said.
Injuries and COVID-19 derailed the Millers, who entered the season with high hopes thanks to a loaded backfield and a new defensive scheme.
After dropping the opening game to Mustang, Yukon quickly rebounded rolling off three straight wins against Deer Creek, Norman and Norman North.
But disaster first reared its ugly head in the game against Norman.
Speedy running back Caden Hernandez took the Millers’ first kickoff and returned it about 30 yards before getting walloped by the Tigers.
He wouldn’t step on the football field in uniform for the remainder of the year after suffering a knee injury.
He wouldn’t be the last to go down.
Throughout the season, the Millers saw virtually every running back on the team suffer some type of injury that forced them to miss a gaime.
Joe Wythe and Triston Brooke each suffered injuries that sidelined them, as did Makari Slaughter, who missed the final game with a knee injury he suffered while running in a score the week before.
“Injuries are part of the game,” said Reed during his season-ending visit with the local media.
However, Reed said this was the most injuries he has seen, and they did change the face of the game.
The loss of Hernandez, a senior, that early in the season was critical.
But Yukon responded, coming within seconds of beating Broken Arrow, which was ranked No. 3 at the time.
The Millers also played tough against Jenks and Edmond Santa Fe, two of the other top teams in Class 6A-1.
The biggest opponent, however, was something they couldn’t defend against — COVID-19.
The virus took a toll on the team both physically and emotionally.
In the season-ending game, the Millers were down seven starters, including three who were in quarantine.
“There wasn’t a game since Week 3 where we didn’t have a player in quarantine,” the fourth-year coach said.
The one benefit of such an unlucky season, Reed said, is that a lot of players who wouldn’t normally get a lot of playing time, were on the field getting experience.
He said that should benefit the team next year, as does the return of Dutton, Slaughter and running back Chaz Bradley.
The team will also return a bulk of the offensive and defensive lines.
The highlight of the season, Reed said, was the Millers’ win over Westmoore and legitimately earning a playoff spot.
They finished fourth in the district for the first time since moving to 6A-1.
He said other teams can’t just look at the Millers and see them as an easy win.
This year’s seniors finished with a 16-15 record. It’s the best record of any class since before Reed joined the staff in 2017.
The Millers went 0-10 in 2016.
“It’s a pretty amazing turnaround,” Reed said, pointing out that Yukon is becoming relevant among 6A teams.
And he expects that growth to continue as players become more familiar with the offensive and defensive schemes.
Now begins the preparation for next year, but Reed said he doesn’t know where to begin because the players aren’t on campus.
School is being conducted through the district’s continuous learning plan, which means they are attending class from home.
“I don’t know where to begin planning an off-season. It’s hard to wrap your head around what we’re going to do,” he sad. “We’re fighting an uphill battle.”
Yet, Reed said the team will move forward.
“I am pretty confident in what we do,” he said. “ … I’m pleased with where we have gone.”