A HISTORIC BATTLE IN THE TRENCHES
By Brandon Hurley
Come out and enjoy a bit of history Friday night.
A pair of future Division I scholarship athletes are set to grace the same Greene County gridiron for the first time ever. While many future Division I athletes have come and gone locally over the years, never have two athletes with verbal scholarship commitments to Power 5 schools squared off against each other.
We are about to witness the rarest of the rare. It’s bound be a fun one with substantial district title implications.
Greene County’s Tyler Miller – an Iowa State University offensive tackle commits – will square off against Kuemper’s Blaise Gunnerson, a Nebraska defensive end recruit, in one of the most anticipated individual matchup’s in the rivalry’s long history.
Miller, a three star recruit as determined by 24/7 Sports, verbally committed to become a Cyclone Nov. 29, 2018 after also receiving Division I offers from Nebraska, Cincinnati, UCF and Purdue. Virginia came on late and offered Miller after announcing his commitment. The decision felt right, the senior said of his desire to play in Ames.
“I was able to develop a good relationship with the (Iowa State) coaches,” Miller said in a Herald interview back in November. “I felt comfortable with the direction they are going. It just felt right.
“(I really liked) how they treated their players,” Miller added. “Their facilities are top notch, a new locker room. It’s going to be amazing.”
Gunnerson made his decision July 2 to head west and play in the Big 10 after also receiving offers from Iowa State, Iowa, Kansas State and Minnesota. The 6-5, 250 pound three star recruit (24/7 Sports) sat out the entire 2018 season due to injury, but still consistently made noise in offseason prospect camps, enough so to garner big time offers.
Gunnerson and Miller attended many of the same camps over the summer and even made various college visits at the same time. Their bond grew tighter during the offseason basketball circuit as well, but come Friday night, those niceties vanish for a handful of hours. Miller wants blood.
“I’ve been close with (Blaise) through the recruiting process. We talk all the time,” Miller said. “We are really good friends. But we aren’t friends on the football field.”
Gunnerson first caught recruiter’s eyes back in 2017, when, as a sophomore, the defensive end recorded 25.5 tackles to go with four sacks, the second best total on the team. He’s out to a quick start during his senior campaign, recording a team-best four sacks (T-5th in 2A) and 20.5 tackles.
Miller has anchored an offensive line that has paved the way for 1,849 total yards (369.8 ypg) and 24 touchdowns. He’ll likely draw the matchup against the highly touted Gunnerson.
With a threat like the 6-5 Gunnerson lurking on the defensive side of the ball, Miller and company will be in constant search of the highly ranked recruit.
Greene County head coach Caden Duncan has already devised an offensive plan.
“The tough part about it is, their other defensive end is also very athletic,” Duncan said. “They aren’t super weak side or anything like that. They are both pretty good. We will have to make sure we identify where they are at and make sure we are helping.
This probably won’t be a game where we want to do a ton of super long developing players. We have to get the ball out of Brent’s hands and try to get in a rhythm.”
Oh, by the way, no Greene County High School football program has ever started the year 6-0, and the last Jefferson squad to reach that plateau was a mere 12 years ago, all the way back in 2007.
Greene County head coach Caden Duncan is certainly aware of the talent ready to take the field Friday.
“A game like this makes it a little more intense,” Duncan said. “There’s a little more build up. People in the community and surrounding communities even have been talking about it for awhile.
They’ve obviously got some big time players. They have some good playmakers that we have to be looking out for. There’s going to be a lot of talent on the field. It should be pretty exciting.”
The anticipation is palpable, and I for one can’t wait. The battle in the trenches will be a fight to remember.