ARVADA — Lakewood senior Brock Miller was a little more that just special Friday night at the North Area Athletic Complex.
The senior had a punt return for a touchdown in the first quarter and added an 89-yard kick return for another score in the second half as the Tigers took a 44-15 victory over Arvada West in both teams’ football season opener.
“He (Miller) is a special kid,” Lakewood coach Jeff Braun said. “He is a big track kid and he has figured out that he can play the game of football too.”
Miller’s punt return came after the Wildcats put themselves in a hole with three straight penalties on fourth down that forced A-West to punt from its own 4-yard line. The senior caught the punt on A-West’s fourth punt attempt and was able to race down the Tigers’ sideline before diving into the end zone to put Lakewood up 14-0 with just more than five minutes left in the first quarter.
A-West got a little momentum in the second half scoring on its opening offensive drive of the third quarter on a 1-yard touchdown run by sophomore Tanner Spirek, cutting the Tigers’ lead to 24-7. However, Miller answered immediately on the ensuing kickoff.
“It was kind of sketchy with the kickoff return after I dropped it,” Miller said of the 89-yard kickoff return that he first fumbled forward before picking it up and splitting A-West’s defense. “I just had to make up for it and I got on my wheels.”
The touchdown gave Lakewood a comfortable 31-7 lead with 8 minutes, 12 seconds left in the third quarter. The Tigers’ two quarterbacks — junior Ezekiel Sundberg and sophomore Pierce Holley — both had second half touchdown passes to widen the Tigers’ lead.
Sundberg had a 32-yard touchdown pass to junior Elzia Sekou. Holley connected with junior Blake Cowden for a 30-yard touchdown strike on a fourth-down play with just under eight minutes to play for the final score of the game.
“Last year we came out and won just three games,” said Lakewood senior running back Rudy Maestas, who had a rushing and receiving touchdown for the Tigers. “This year we came in looking at it as a redemption year.”
With the Class 5A Jeffco League gone with the new waterfall system it place, it was up to individual schools to keep area rivalries going by scheduling old foes on non-league games. Lakewood and Arvada West — both with rich traditions combining for nine state football titles — opened with the non-league battle to start the season.
Both are looking to have a bounce-back year. A-West went 1-9 last season and Lakewood was 3-7. A-West coach Brad Pyatt, who was a standout receiver for the Wildcats during their 1997 state champions run, had an extremely young squad with a number of sophomores getting significant playing time.
Sophomore quarterback Johnny Krutsch, who started as a freshman, had a 1-yard touchdown run and two-point conversion toss to senior Garrett Shipman late in the third quarter as one of the bright spots for the Wildcats.
“I respect Brad,” said Braun, who coached Pyatt during his playing days. “He has taken over a program that has been struggling. We just tried to take care of ourselves. I always tell my kids not to overlook anybody.”
A-West goes on the road next week to face Mountain Range on Friday, Sept. 9, at North Stadium. Lakewood keeps the theme going of playing old Jeffco rivals. The Tigers face Bear Creek on Thursday, Sept. 8, at Jeffco Stadium.
“Bear Creek stole one for us last year,” Maestas said. “We need to go get that one on Thursday.”