WOODSTOCK — Heading into the 2019 season, it wasn’t a given that Dalton Miller would be the starter for the entirety of the schedule.
After beginning his junior year as Etowah’s starting quarterback, Miller struggled and was replaced midway through the season before regaining his spot in the last few games. Entering spring football he knew nothing was guaranteed.
“Last year I think there was a lack of confidence on my part,” Miller said. “Over the spring and summer I had to prove myself as a leader. It was an open position in the spring and I knew that. I came at it with that mentality. I knew I really had to earn it.”
Miller earned the starting spot and flourished in his final season wearing an Etowah uniform. He passed for a county-best 2,518 yards while completing 63% of his passes, throwing for a county-best 24 touchdowns and earning first team All-Region 4AAAAAAA honors. He cemented himself as the signal caller for the Eagles and for his season performance he’s been named the 2019 Cherokee Tribune Offensive Player of the Year.
“It was pretty exciting to hear that news,” Miller said. “I was living my dream this year. This is all I’ve ever wanted to do was play quarterback for Etowah. I got to fill that role this year and it was really cool.”
The first @GHSFdaily state yardage leaders were released today. Etowah QB Dalton Miller is third in the state in passing yardage with 1,065. Etowah wide receiver Jackson Manns 8th in state with 436 yards rec. yards.Cherokee HS QB A.J. Swann 18th in passing yardage (750) pic.twitter.com/fFTOWhSdK5— Patrick O'Shea (@Patrick_J_OShea) September 19, 2019
As the season progressed and the Eagles’ passing game continued to flourish, Etowah coach Dave Svehla credited first-year assistant coach Ronnie Jankovich with helping add new elements of a passing threat to what had traditionally been a power-run offense.
Jankovich shifted the credit down to Miller, who Jankovich called possibly the most accurate passer he’s ever coached.
“For some reason people think I had something to do with it,” Jankovich said. “Dalton is a special player. That’s the bottom line. He’s really earned it. From the first day I got here he stood out to me as a leader, and he carried himself that way. Hopefully a school will be smart enough to scoop him up.”
Miller said the Woodstock game, which Etowah won 28-21, was his favorite game from this past season but added that the overtime walk-off win against Cherokee was something he’ll never forget.
Down 21-7 at halftime on the road at Cherokee, Miller helped lead Etowah to the come-from-behind win while finishing 20-for-31 passing for 209 yards and four touchdowns. His touchdown passes in the third and fourth quarters to Brock Rechsteiner and Blake Bohannon helped cut into the lead and a clutch two-point conversion pass to Rechsteiner tied the game at 21 with little time remaining in regulation.
It was his final pass of the game, however, a 15-yard touchdown to best friend Jackson Manns, which lifted his team to victory.
“That was probably the best moment of my high school career,” Miller said.
Miller has received a handful of college offers this fall including Birmingham Southern University, Oberlin College (OH), San Diego Mesa College (CA), and Union College (KY). His dream school has always been Clemson University but he said he’s still weighing his options at this point.
Miller’s career path within the Etowah football program is one which should inspire many youth football players. He started one game as a sophomore, lost his starting position midway through his junior year, and returned determined to regain his position once and for all.
The new offense under Jankovich was a breath of fresh air according to Miller who said his mindset this season what night-and-day when compared to a season ago.
“I was psyched when they told me we were gonna change the offense,” Miller said. “Coach (Jankovich) really helped me with my footwork and reads, but he also allowed me to take some shots if I saw a mismatch. Having that little bit of freedom really made a huge difference I think.”
Dalton Miller hits Brock Rechsteiner on the sideline for an 81-yard touchdown on Etowah’s opening possession. XP is good.6:09 left in first qtr@etowahfootball 7@PBrookFball 0 pic.twitter.com/PwT0bBYop7— Patrick O'Shea (@Patrick_J_OShea) September 14, 2019
Miller said having as many as five different receivers on a given play who he felt confident with was another key factor to his success. He praised Bohannon, Manns, Rechsteiner, Stephen Palazzo and his offensive line as being integral pieces to the offense along with the team’s three running backs Remington Adams, Nick Maddox and Klivert Many.
Miller’s locker has been cleaned out along with the other seniors from this year’s team, but he’s proud of what the team accomplished in their final season together.
“The record (5-6) really doesn’t show how good of a team we were,” Miller said. “We had more than a couple games that could have gone either way. But it was a lot of fun. This team was a family, a real brotherhood, and it was just a lot of fun to play with your brothers one last year.”