If Chris Svarczkopf didn't have bad luck thus far this football season, the Bishop Dwenger coach wouldn't have any. With his Saint players dropping left and right with a variety of injuries, Svaczkopf can hang his hat on the fact that his young quarterback is getting better each time the sun rises. Add to the development of sophomore Cody Miller a powerful running game led by D'Marcus Moon and a strong defensive unit that is keeping its offense in games, this challenging season just may turn out OK for the Saints.
Miller played with poise – and more importantly, ability – on Friday, as he guided Dwenger over a rallying Concordia Lutheran squad 21-14.
“Cody just gets better and better,” Svarczkopf said. “We're happy to see that. He's a good, young man and he plays hard.”
Entering this season no one, Svarczkopf included, ever dreamt that he would be relying on Miller in any capacity. However, the first two Dwenger quarterbacks (Michael Fiacable and John Kelty) both suffered injuries (Kelty could return by mid-September) and Svarczkopf turned to the terribly inexperienced Miller.
“The team believes in him,” Svarczkopf said. “When you have those things going for him, good things are going to happen.”
They happened on Friday, as Miller (8 of 12 for 101 yards and one touchdown) seemingly got more comfortable with every possession. He was accurate with his throws (a beautiful 35-yard touchdown pass found Gabriel Espinoza in the second quarter), and most impressively, he showed very good mobility and toughness.
With his team leading 14-0 in the third quarter, Miller dropped back to pass, but the Concordia defensive line pressured him and the play broke down. Rather than forcing a quick throw into coverage or taking a sack, Miller saw a sliver of daylight and was gone.
He sprinted right up the heart of the Cadet defense and when he neared the goal line put his head down and dove into the chest of a Concordia defensive back, which carried him across the goal line for a 14-yard score that gave his team a 21-0 lead midway through the period.
“I'm more comfortable with the ball,” Miller said. “I learned a lot last week (in a 20-7 win over South Side) and improved a lot.”
Coming into the game, it was Concordia's quarterback, David Morrison (24 for 42, 229 yards, one touchdown) that had been the talk of the pre-season. The junior made some impressive throws, particularly late in the game as he led his team to a pair of fourth quarter scores. However, Concordia's night was epitomized in its final offensive play.
The Cadets (0-2, 0-2 Summit Athletic Conference) were driving to potentially tie, or could have even won the game, with just over a minute remaining. On a fourth-and-one, the snap was low and Morrison bobbled the ball and was sacked by the rushing Dwenger (2-0, 2-0) defensive line.
The Cadets struggled to move the ball offensively against the disciplined Saint defenders, but more often, they beat themselves with errant passes, turnovers and penalties.
“We didn't really start playing (well) offensively until the last eight minutes and that's too late,” Cadet coach Tim Mannigel said. “And we still had an opportunity at the end.”
A week after Concordia scored 33 points against North Side, it failed time and again to take advantage of numerous opportunities, particularly in the first half.
The Cadets got the ball deep in the Dwenger half of the field three times in the first half and turned the ball over each time.
Just like Miller, Morrison is a first-year starter and showed growing pains.
“Frankly, we had some match-ups all night long that were working,” Mannigel said. “We just, for whatever reason, did not hit them. I don't know why. We'll have to go back to look at the film.”
It wouldn't have been a Dwenger game if there wasn't an injury and Friday was no exception. Senior two-way starter (wide receiver, quarterback and defensive back) Nick German injured his ankle in the first half and had to leave the game. He tried to have his right ankle re-taped and run the pain off, but German spent the second half on the sidelines on crutches. As Miller's back-up, German's unavailability will have an impact on how Svaczkopf utilizes Miller.
“Cody is a very good athlete,” Svarczkopf said. “The thing that we have to be careful of is that we don't have very many quarterbacks. Everyone is calling for this quarterback run and that quarterback run, I have to turn them down on the headset because we'll run out of quarterbacks.”