December 24, 2013 10:31:06 AM
LOUISVILLE -- At the end of the 2012 season, the cloud lifted for Louisville High School football coach M.C. Miller.
Three years ago, Miller left his job as Noxubee County High's football coach to take the same position at Harrison Central High. In less than a week's time, Miller was on the move again, taking over at perennial power Louisville.
In 2008, Miller led Noxubee County to the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 4A state championship. Tyrone Shorter, a longtime assistant coach under Miller, led Noxubee County back to the state title in 2012.
When Miller took over at Louisville, he still had to endure a homecoming game against Noxubee County, which turned out to be 14-12 regionally televised win. A year later, the teams met twice, with Noxubee County winning both, including a rematch in the North State championship that sent the Tigers to Jackson.
"Those games were the hardest games I have had to coach in," Miller said. "When you know all of the kids on both sides it makes it difficult. I could a lot of pride in Tyrone winning the championship if we couldn't be the ones that did it. But those games were difficult."
Realignment late last fall moved Louisville down to Class 3A. This allowed Noxubee County to focus on winning the 4A championship and Louisville to focus on winning the 3A championship. The teams still met, but no region or playoff implications were on the line.
The Wildcats did their part. Louisville won all 16 games it played -- on most nights in dominating fashion. For restoring the pride in the program and for winning this season's Class 3A state championship, Miller is The Dispatch's All-Area Small Schools Coach of the Year.
"Going into the season, we thought we had a chance to have a special team," Miller said. "There are no guarantees, with injuries and whatnot. However, the kids worked real hard after the near-miss from 2012. It was just a matter of playing the game.
"The biggest thing is we stayed focused each week. The team was never too high or too low. It didn't matter who we were playing, our team was ready to play hard."
Work ethic has always been a staple of Miller's teams. Opponents have always complimented Miler and his staff on how hard his teams play. At Noxubee County, Miller relied on powerhouse defenses that often featured the team's best playmakers in skill positions on the offense.
This season at Louisville, quarterback Wyatt Roberts led the offense. Roberts was 179 of 319 passes for 2,827 yards and 36 touchdowns and four interceptions. Fellow senior Desmond Goss had 53 receptions for 1,011 yards and 18 touchdowns, while junior Dontae Jones had 41 receptions for 727 yards and 11 touchdowns.
"Playing for Coach Miller was an incredible experience," Roberts said. "He has done this so long that he has a lot of knowledge to give. He is a great motivator, and you knew each week we would be prepared and ready to play a great game.
"The team always played with confidence. Sometimes it looked easy on games nights, but it wasn't because we worked hard to get to this point."
Miller believes the biggest motivation comes on the playing field. The 41-21 loss to Noxubee County in the North State championship game served as a major factor entering the season.
When Louisville defeated Noxubee County 28-6 in the third week of the season, the seeds for a great season were being sewn. Two weeks later, Louisville beat Columbus 21-10. Columbus was a Class 6A playoff participant in 2012.
"Each season has a turning point, and the Noxubee County win was very important to us," Miller said. "It allowed us to let go some of the demons from the year before. Against Columbus, we had a big kickoff return on a wet night for football, so we showed we could play through some adversity."
Again, Miller had the horses on defense. Linebacker Jeremy Sangster had 146 tackles and 27 sacks. Defensive end Anthony Gund had 73 tackles with 13 sacks. Louisville had two shutouts in the postseason and allowed only one touchdown in another win.
In the state championship, though, the battle was intense. Louisville held off Hazlehurst 30-28 in the title game thanks to a stop on a two-point conversion in the final minute.
"Every championship is special," Miller said."The program here has always been successful. It was great to be able to become part of that tradition. I was hired at Noxubee to win a championship. Then I was brought here to a win championship."
Still coaching. Still motivating. Still winning.
It is all M.C. Miller knows how to do.
Scott Walters is a sports reporter for the Commercial Dispatch. He can be reached at [email protected]
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter