Photo by Jeff Yoder
Your Prep Sports
SOLON – As the final seconds of the first half ticked away Cam Miller took the snap and took a long glance down the left sideline.
Miller held his gaze for a few seconds before shifting his to the right and rifling a pass toward the end zone.
Before the ball reached goal line Miller began jogging toward his intended receiver.
At the last second AJ Coons extended his arms above a pair of Mount Pleasant defenders in the deep corner of the end zone at Spartan Stadium and hauled in the pass for a game-tying touchdown.
The early look to the left was all a show. Gamesmanship by a coach’s son turned quarterback to freeze defenders.
Truthfully, Miller admits now, he knew where his pass was going before he ever broke the huddle.
“Down by a touchdown on the last play of the half I knew all the way I was going to AJ,” Miller said. “I just throw it up and let him make plays every time.”
That admission may not be exactly what veteran Solon coach Kevin Miller wants to hear from his son and three-year starter at quarterback who has been schooled for years in the art of reading coverages and dissecting defenses.
However, it’s one thing for opponents to know Miller is looking for his top target. It’s another thing entirely to stop the two long-time friends from connecting.
“They were ball boys since they were in first grade and Cam knows AJ and AJ knows Cam,” Kevin Miller said. “It’s just like they are on the same wave length with what they are thinking. Those two have thrown the ball around for a long time so there is that comfortability that comes with that.”
The Miller to Coons connection started before kindergarten.
Before the two Solon seniors were one of the top passing connections in the state they forged a friendship as elementary kids tossing the football on the sideline during varsity practice until their arms grew tired or the sun went down, which ever came first.
“During practice when we were little we would throw together until we couldn’t throw any more,” Cam Miller said. “We played catch on the side for hours every single day until our arms got sore.”
The quarterbacks and receiver relationship is one built on timing and trust. The best duos at all levels spend hours attempting to create synergy on the field.
For Coons and Miller that type of connection came early and it started with football.
“Back in preschool or kindergarten he was the first friend I ever had, we started playing flag football together in kindergarten,” Coons said. “Me and Cam playing football it’s always just been how we built our relationship and how we became friends.”
By the time the two hit the varsity scene two years ago they had already possessed the type of bond the best players work years to create.
“I know exactly where Cam is going to put the ball and when it’s going to be there,” Coons said. “It just makes my job easier because I know where he’s going to put the ball and I know his arm strength and all of that makes my job that much easier.”
With the help of one another Coons and Miller have each become one of the state’s best at their respective positions.
During their first two varsity seasons Miller and Coons have helped Solon to back-to-back 9-0 regular seasons, a pair of playoff berths and a combined 20-2 record.
Solon has averaged 38.1 points per game over the past two seasons with Miller at quarterback but saw last season end with a thud, in the form of a 48-13 opening-round playoff loss to eventual Class 3A runner-up Western Dubuque.
Miller and Coons are back for one final run together with an eye on a deep playoff run.
“They are stronger, they are faster and I think they are better physically than they were last year,” Kevin Miller said. “Hopefully from a leadership standpoint they will grow and develop and be leaders by example but also hold people accountable to the standard that we have here in Solon.”
Miller plays the role of catalyst for the Solon attack.
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound North Dakota State commit has thrown for nearly 3,500 yards and 51 touchdowns in two seasons leading the offense.
A nearly 60 percent passer during his varsity career, Miller has more than 25 touchdowns and seven or fewer interceptions in back-to-back varsity seasons.
“I just think he does some things that no other kid in Iowa throwing the ball in Iowa can do,” Coons said of Miller. “He’s so patient, he knows the offense so well he has a great arm and he finds people in the open spot. He does everything that you want from a leadership standpoint. He’s exactly what you want in a quarterback.”
Nearly 40 percent of the career passing production from Miller has gone to Coons.
A 6-foot-5, 205-pound matchup nightmare, that Cam Miller calls the best receiver in the state, Coons has 71 career receptions for 1,367 yards and 20 touchdowns.
“He’s a big-time player and I think he’s gotten a lot faster too,” Cam Miller said. “He has long arms, he’s a big-framed kid and the thing about AJ is he can make somebody miss and then he’s gone.”
Coons is coming off an all-state season in which he caught 48 passes for 815 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Also a standout basketball player, Coons committed to South Dakota State to play football in the spring and spent his offseason working on speed and explosion.
“I have really worked on increasing my speed because the windows are going to continue to get tighter,” Coons said. “Last year at the end of the year I got a lot of double teams and stuff so I wanted to make sure that I was more efficient with my route running and create more openings for Cam to find me.”
In college the two life-long friends will become rivals at FCS powers North Dakota State and South Dakota State.
Before that they have one more football season to savor a relationship more than 10 years in the making.
“We are having our graduation party together and so we were talking about the color of graduation and we said we will have to go with orange and black because we couldn’t go with green and yellow or blue and yellow because of the rivalry in college,” Coons said. “That will be exciting but right now we just want to enjoy this last season and see what this team is capable of.”
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