Up for the challenge
Things were finally going right for the 0-3 Cavaliers last Friday night after starting quarterback Austin Hollifield found Will Hollifield for a 7-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter putting East Rutherford ahead of Kings Mountain 28-20. Then the hit happened.
After dropping back to pass, Austin Hollifield pulled the ball down and took off. Kings Mountain's Alex Reynolds met Holliefield with authority and the Cavalier quarterback had to be helped off the field with a concussion.
"It was a heck of a hit. His helmet went flying 10 yards, I'm holding him up and he was just out of it," East Rutherford head coach Clint Bland said. "He wanted to go back in but there was no way I was putting him back in the game."
Junior backup quarterback DJ Miller took the reins for the Cavaliers.
The Mountaineers (2-2, 0-1 SMAC) were far too familiar with Miller already since he scored the first points of the game after scooping up a blocked punt and bolting 30 yards for a touchdown.
Miller took over with an eight-point lead and led the Cavaliers on a game-icing touchdown drive that ended with a 2-yard touchdown run from Kameron Garrison with 2:35 left in the game for the 34-20 win.
"Whenever it was my time I just came out and did what I had to do," Miller said. "I was just ready to go."
"That's why you rep the second team quarterback because you never know," Bland said. "It could be the first play of the game and he has to be ready to go. That's why we rep [Miller] just as much as we do Austin. He stepped in at a key time and did a great job. To come into that situation in a tight game knowing we need a win and play the way he did was great."
Miller, a natural running back, threw just one pass but rushed 10 times for 57 yards.
"He can throw but at that time, up by seven, I wanted to use his legs. I planned on giving him more reps at running back so I figured if I had another running back playing quarterback I would use him," Bland said. "Our lineman blocked great for him and we put another score on the board. It's good to know that when you No. 1 goes down you have a No. 2 that can step up."
Hollifield, who found himself in similar situations last season as T.J. Watkins' backup, understood the role Miller had to play.
"Whenever my quarterback got hurt he came up to me and asked me to finish the game for him," Miller said. "That was really my motivation and kept leading me on that night."
Hollifield sat out practice Monday and Tuesday and is scheduled to visit the doctor tomorrow. No matter the outcome of the visit, Miller is slated as the Cavaliers (1-3, 1-0 SMAC) starting quarterback for Friday night's home game against East Burke (1-2, 0-0 SMAC).
"Like I told [Hollifield's] parents, even if he is cleared, if that was my son there's no way he would be playing this week," Bland said. "We may dress him just for emergency situations."
With Hollifield watching practice in street clothes, Miller is taking all quarterback reps and Bland doesn't seem to be at all concerned.
"He's run the offense for two years so we won't change what we do. ," Bland said. He's confident in Miller's potential as a runner and passer. "He isn't going to come out and throw for 200-300 yards, I wouldn't put him in that situation, but if I needed him to he would."
"I'm just thinking of all the things I have to do hoping I don't mess and hoping everything goes good," Miller said with a grin.
The confident QB is excited about the opportunity to play under center.
"My main position is running back but I love to play some quarterback," Miller said. "I'm more than ready."