Nick Miller -- 3A/4A/5A Defensive Player of the Year

(Council Bluffs) -- Lewis Central defensive end Nick Miller made life miserable for opposing quarterbacks this season. His dominance helped his team make history by winning the Class 4A title and earned the senior the KMAland 3A/4A/5A Defensive Player of the Year Award. 

Miller recorded 49 tackles, 27 of which were for loss and accumulated 15 sacks in 13 games for the Titans. He had at least one sack in eight games, more than one five times and had a pair of three-sack performances against Des Moines, Hoover and Dallas Center-Grimes. His 15 were the second-most in the state and the most in Class 4A.

"I thought I could get to the quarterback well," he said. "Coach (Matt) Argo(tsinger) always tells me my strength is getting to the quarterback. If I put pressure on them early, that disrupts them later in the game when they are in passing situations. That's what we do."

Miller partnered with Iowa State commit and standout linebacker Wyatt Hatcher to lead a daunting Lewis Central defense that terrorized opposing offenses all season. The Titans held opponents to 17.6 points per game while facing BCMoore's toughest schedule in Class 4A. Miller and his friends were also responsible for four opponents' lowest outputs of the season, including the Class 3A champion, Harlan.

"If I don't make a play, those guys are there and are going to make a play," Miller said. "It allowed me to play freely and loose. Coach (Justin) Kammrad always talked about trusting the guy next to you, and I think we did that this year."

It was the defense's worst game of the season -- a 38-37 win over Winterset in week nine -- that set the path for their dominant postseason run. The Huskies, an eventual state semifinalist, ran roughshod with 386 rushing yards until a late-game sack by Miller secured the victory for the Titans. The close call prompted a challenge from Coach Ben Matiyow, their defensive coordinator.

"He talked with us," Miller said. "He told us that wasn't us. We couldn't give up that many points late in the season. So, we went back to the drawing board and fixed what we did wrong."

They opened the playoffs with an impressive 46-14 victory over Spencer and followed with a 35-21 win over Indianola, avenging an earlier season loss, to qualify for the state semifinals.

When they arrived in Cedar Falls, the Titans' defense contained Waverly-Shell Rock's run-heavy offense to only 3.5 yards per carry in a 35-10 win, setting the stage for a state championship showdown with Cedar Rapids, Xavier.

Miller shined on the state's brightest stage, posting a sack and a forced fumble. He also played a vital role in the Titans' game-winning goal-line stand, which ended by stuffing Xavier on fourth down at the one-yard line to secure the state title.

"We always talked about finishing the fight," Miller said. "We just had to finish it. We knew we were prepared condition-wise to play a game like that. We told ourselves it wasn't going to be over unless we made a stand. The guys glued together, and we stopped them."

Miller concludes his time at LC with 100 career tackles, 22.5 sacks, 45 tackles for loss and a state champion.

"It means the world to be the first one to do it," Miller said. "It's just unexplainable."

Miller's award marks the third consecutive year it's gone to a member of the Titans' defense. Deyo won the honor in 2019 and 2020. Mount Ayr's John Shields (2018), Glenwood's Caleb Sanders (2016 & 2017) and Audubon's Matthew Smith-Petersen also won Defensive Player of the Year honors before the award split into three categories.

Check out the full interview with Miller below.

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