MUSTANG — After graduating so many of their top players last season, it wasn't known which new faces would be the big-play threats for the Yukon Millers.
Coach Todd Wilson got the answer Friday night, and it's not a short list.
The usual suspects, like quarterback Corben Jones and receiver/safety Derek Deeds, were in the mix, but less-familiar names like Hunter Meyn, Codey Sanchez, Tyler Tredway and Austin Bevill came through with numerous big plays to propel the Millers to a 44-31 win over Mustang at Bronco Stadium.
“We had all those starters last year that we lost, and we just had a big group of young kids coming in. We didn't really know what to expect,” said Bevill, who had only two catches on the night, 29- and 36-yard touchdown receptions. “We've been working hard, and just got in there and got after it. We really surprised ourselves tonight.”
The performance, particularly from the new receivers, was quite unexpected.
“We dropped a lot of balls in practice this week,” said Deeds, who had a 58-yard touchdown on a slip screen. “We didn't have one drop tonight. We came up with big catches on third and long, fourth and long. It was just awesome.”
Sanchez set the tone early, with a 45-yard touchdown catch on his way to 93 yards on five receptions.
Four of Jones' top passing targets graduated, but the offense didn't hit the slightest speed bump. Jones completed 12 of his first 13 passes and finished 18-of-23 for 285 yards and four TDs.
“We didn't lose a beat,” Jones said. “I don't know how they did it, making all those big plays. Five-foot-five guys jumping seven feet in the air and catching the ball. I don't know what was going on.”
The Millers were virtually unstoppable on third down and converted a pair of fourth-down attempts on their first two series, following each with a touchdown on the next play.
Yukon landed two big blows early in the game, first recovering a mishandled kickoff to set up its second touchdown for a 14-0 lead before Mustang took an offensive snap.
Then, after the Broncos finally put points on the board with a field goal in the second quarter, Meyn took the ensuing kickoff back 96 yards for a touchdown.
After the Millers began to relax with a big fourth-quarter lead, the Broncos added a couple of late touchdowns, but otherwise, the Yukon defense — with eight new starters — was on point all night.
“They played really well,” Wilson said. “Our guys played great defensively. The first time out for all those new guys who hadn't been in the fire. It's encouraging.”
Now, the Millers take the momentum from beating their rival into the opening of their new stadium next Friday against Edmond Santa Fe.
“We can open up the new place with a big game,” Wilson said. “It'll be a great game next week.”