Miller’s TD return lifts Sioux past Storm

ELGIN – Danger. High explosives. Handle with care.

And so Grant County-Flasher did exactly that when clinging to a six-point lead late in Saturday’s 9-man playoff game with Westhope-Newburg-Glenburn.

Brett Fleck booted his kickoff short of speedy, elusive return man Hunter Braaten, a bundle of dynamite. Little did he know that he was sending the ball to a man with heretofore hidden return skills.

Ethan Miller picked up the bounding ball at the W-N-G 33-yard line, cut left across the field, broke a pair of tackles and dashed 67 yards for a touchdown.

Miller’s TD proved to be the final six-pointer in W-N-G’s 44-42 first-round playoff victory over fifth-ranked GC-F. Braaten followed with a decisive conversion run to top off a tremendous offensive performance.

“It’s my first return touchdown. It’s the first return I’ve ever had,” said Miller, a 6-foot-4, 165-pound senior wideout and linebacker. “I just ran to it and took it.”

GC-F coach Jamie Krenz said he was relieved when Braaten was unable to return the kickoff.

“That’s exactly what we wanted to happen. We wanted (Miller) to carry the ball but we overpursued a little bit. … It was a freak play but you’ve got to give him credit.”

W-N-G coach Tom Nesvold said Miller is deceptively fast.

“When he starts getting those big strides going he gets a lot of yards,” Nesvold said.

The host Storm took a 28-16 lead into halftime and let a 36-22 third period lead get away.

W-N-G tied the game at 36 on a 23-yard scoring run and subsequent conversion run by Braaten with 5:31 to play.

The Storm answered with a an 18-yard scoring run by Zackary Schmidt to take a 42-36 lead with 1:51 remaining.

Then came Miller.

Braaten, a 5-10, 165-pound senior, ran 33 times for 317 yards and four TDs. He threw for 119 yards en route to 436 yards of total offense.

Big rushing games are nothing new to Braaten.

“It’s been that way all year, really,” he said. “I scramble a lot and pass when I can.”

Senior quarterback Taylor Krenz threw for 223 yards and four scores for the Storm. He was intercepted three times. Sophomore Andrew Schafer picked up 149 yards on the ground in 17 carries.

The winning Sioux, Class A 11-man runners-up last year, move on to meet second-ranked Towner-Granville-Upham in Saturday’s quarterfinal round.