The Millers were coming off of an undefeated 2022 season that resulted in their first state championship title since 1987. Oakdale saw their season end in the 3A title game with a 21-14 loss to Damascus. But with quarterbacks Deshawn Purdie and Evan Austin returning to their respective sidelines, both teams were looking to kickoff their promising seasons on the right foot.
Oakdale got the scoring started in the first quarter on an interception returned 59 yards for a touchdown by junior safety Brayden DeWaal, which gave the Bears a 7-0 lead. The Oakdale defense was able to keep the high-powered Millers offense, which averaged over 45 points per game last season, relatively in check all night long.
After some back-and-forth play throughout the rest of the 1st quarter and much of the 2nd quarter, Milford Mill got themselves on the board with an explosive 76-yard touchdown run from Keion Sutton to tie the game at 7-7. But less than a minute later, Austin broke loose with a 75-yard scamper of his own to give the Bears a 14-7 lead, which they would take into halftime.
An interception a few minutes into the 3rd quarter propelled the Millers into a long, methodical drive that ended with RB Lamontae Royster finding the end zone. But, the extra point was unsuccessful, and Oakdale still held a 14-13 lead.
Just before the end of the 3rd quarter, another long Milford Mill drive ended inside the 5-yard line on a fumble by wide receiver Josh Pearson which was recovered by Oakdale’s Dominic Nichols and returned well into Millers territory. But, as the 4th quarter began, the Millers defense forced the Bears to turn the ball over on downs.
The ensuing possession saw Milford Mill march down the field, and was capped by the second rushing touchdown of the evening by Sutton, which pulled the Millers within two. With just over five minutes remaining in the game, Milford once again relied on Sutton to punch the ball back into the end zone and convert the 2-point conversion which gave the Millers a 21-14 lead.
Oakdale moved the ball down the field after the kickoff, including a big pass play from Austin to wide receiver Hunter Thompson. With just over a minute remaining, Austin racked up his second rushing touchdown of the night, this time scrambling in from five yards out. Instead of tacking on the extra point, Oakdale instead opted to go for two and the win. Austin’s pass into the end zone was complete, and the Bears took a 22-21 lead, which they would not relinquish.
Milford had a decent return on the kickoff, but was not able to move the ball effectively, and ultimately turned it over on downs. Oakdale kneeled the ball to run out the clock on a huge road victory.
This early season battle of heavyweights lived up to all the hype, and was a great springboard for both teams who have their eyes set on returning to Annapolis at the end of the year once again.