ROCKINGHAM – It’s no secret that Richmond Senior High School senior running back Dante Miller is a hardworking individual on and off the football field. And now his individual efforts are being rewarded, as he can rise and “shrine” each morning before heading off to school and practice.
Miller (5-9, 185), who is having an exceptional year out of the backfield for the Raiders, has been named to the 2017 North Carolina team for the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas football game. The bowl game is a high school all-star matchup that sees the best players from North and South Carolina battle it out for bragging rights.
“Being named to the Shrine Bowl is an amazing feeling,” Miller said when asked what it meant to him personally. “It also feels great to know God has blessed me to play for the best program in the state and to be named to the Shrine Bowl to compete with and against some of the best players in the area.”
When dissecting the stat sheets, Miller leads almost every offensive category for the Raiders. Through his nine games played this season, Miller has amassed 1,018 rushing yards on 124 carries. He has found the end zone 15 times on the ground, and also has a kickoff return for a touchdown. Miller, too, leads the Raiders in all-purpose yards with 1,245, adding 29 reception yards and 198 kickoff return yards.
Since fulfilling the top running back role this season, Miller is averaging just over eight yards per carry and an impressive 113.1 rushing yards per game. As a junior, Miller’s numbers were much lower, having only earned 294 rushing yards on 55 carries through 11 games.
Miller (21) in action during Richmond’s 49-27 victory over Lumberton in Friday’s homecoming game.
This season, Miller has five games in which he’s eclipsed over 100 rushing yards in a game, his most impressive outing being a 206-yard performance in week one against Ronald Reagan High School.
“This is a great opportunity for a very deserving young man,” first-year head coach Bryan Till said of his star running back.
The Raiders program is no stranger to rich tradition and storied players, as Miller will join an exclusive club of former players to represent the state in the Shrine Bowl. Most recently, Richmond sent defensive lineman Carl Isaac to the 2016 game, and the list includes notables like North Carolina Central University’s Cyrus Stanback (2014), Clemson University National Championship winner Tyrone Crowder (2012), and NFL players Melvin Ingram (2006) and Dannell Ellerbe (2003).
“It feels great to keep the Raider tradition going,” Miller noted. “I would never have been selected to play in the Shrine Bowl without the hard work that we, the Raiders, as a team have put in this season.
“Everyone pushes each other extremely hard,” he continued. “Coach Till and coach (Brad) Denson stress the importance of pushing myself and my teammates hard. I most importantly couldn’t have done this without my mother, who has supported me heavily ever since I started playing football. She’s the hardest working person I know.”
Miller will not be alone in representing the Sandhills Athletic Conference, as neighboring rival Scotland County High School will be sending two of its best players to the all-star game. Representing the Fighting Scots will be senior middle linebacker Javon Ratliffe (6-2, 210) and senior offensive lineman Tyler Smith (6-7, 305).
Miller, who is just as academically talented in the classroom as he is athletically on the football field, has received several scholarships offers from notable Division I programs. They include: Gardner-Webb University, James Madison University, the United States Naval Academy and Wofford University.
“My expectations for the game are for it to be extremely competitive,” Miller said. “I’m looking forward to competing and representing my teammates out (on the field). There’s no way to describe how excited I am to have been selected.”
Coaching the North Carolina team will be David Gentry, who has led his Murphy High School (Smoky Mountain Conference, 1-A) football team to a 7-2 start on the year. Heading up the South Carolina squad will be Kevin Gutshall, who is the head coach at Dorman High School in Roebuck, S.C. (7-2, Region III Conference, 5-A).
As this is the 81st meeting between the two teams, it’s South Carolina that leads the overall series 44-32-4. North Carolina has won the 2016 (17-10) and 2015 (54-39) Shrine Bowls and look to keep their streak alive.
According to its website, the Shrine Bowl, which held its first meeting between the states on Dec. 4, 1937, in Charlotte, N.C., is the longest-running high school all-star game in the nation. The game goes beyond the field, as it helps raise money for the Greenville (S.C.) Unit Shriners Hospital for Children. Since its inaugural game, more than $75 million has been raised through the Shrine Bowl, with $1.7 million being raised since 2013.
Miller will head to Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C., for the annual all-star game. The game is set for Saturday, December 16, in Gibbs Stadium with kickoff at 2 p.m.