Northeast Times

Miller lands in Eagles’ nest after Frankford transfer

Switch it up: Shareef Miller, who won league titles the last two sea­sons at Frank­ford, has joined Ron Co­hen at George Wash­ing­ton. ED MOR­RONE / TIMES PHOTO

Isn’t it funny how things some­times work out?

Last year, Shareef Miller helped hand Ron Co­hen one of his worst de­feats in three dec­ades of coach­ing; now, the top-notch Di­vi­sion-I re­cruit has made it his per­son­al goal to re­turn a loc­al le­gend to glory.

Miller, a 6-foot-5, 225-pound standout de­fens­ive end, grew up in Frank­ford and rose through the neigh­bor­hood foot­ball ranks, first with the youth-level Frank­ford Char­gers be­fore mov­ing up to the high school Pi­on­eers. He was part of Frank­ford’s last two Pub­lic League cham­pi­on­ship teams un­der head coach Will Dog­gett, and was set to re­turn as the Pi­on­eers’ top play­er.

But fate has a funny way of step­ping in, and it was fate — and a change in neigh­bor­hoods — that led Miller to Co­hen’s Wash­ing­ton Eagles for his seni­or sea­son. Switch­ing sides, es­pe­cially to an an­cient ar­chrival, “is a little weird,” Miller ad­mit­ted, but his fam­ily mov­ing close to Grant and the Boulevard pre­dic­ated a jump to the Eagles, and the highly sought-after col­lege re­cruit is tak­ing it all in stride.

“I’m from Frank­ford, so it’s def­in­itely dif­fer­ent put­ting on this uni­form,” Miller said be­fore Monday af­ter­noon’s prac­tice. “The trans­ition is go­ing well. It’s new, but ex­cit­ing. We have a good team here, and we’re ready to go.”

Be­fore Miller and the Eagles open up Fri­day night against SCH Academy (6 p.m., at North­east), he was asked to re­flect about last year’s title game, a 30-3 drub­bing of Wash­ing­ton that was down­right em­bar­rass­ing for the Eagles. That, plus Ry­an’s shutout of Wash­ing­ton on Thanks­giv­ing, handed Co­hen his first over­all los­ing sea­son at Wash­ing­ton in 29 years. 

That, Miller said, won’t hap­pen again, so long as he has any­thing to do with it.

“The guys are really ex­cited, and I know last year was real dis­ap­point­ing for them,” he said. “Every­one is fo­cused and ready, and we won’t have an­oth­er los­ing sea­son. Coach Co­hen, he’s a le­gend, a fath­er fig­ure we can all look up to. He wants to help all the kids, and we want to help him, too.”

Co­hen has helped count­less Wash­ing­ton play­ers get to col­lege over the years, and four of his kids have ended up play­ing in the NFL (in­clud­ing 2010 gradu­ate Shar­rif Floyd, a de­fens­ive line­man like Miller and first-round draft pick in 2013). Na­tion­ally, Miller is a top-20 re­cruit at his po­s­i­tion and would have been scooped up by a top-flight Di­vi­sion-I pro­gram wheth­er he went to high school at Frank­ford, Wash­ing­ton or on the moon. But play­ing for Co­hen his seni­or sea­son cer­tainly won’t hurt, and the coach has already ac­com­pan­ied Miller on vis­its to Pitt­s­burgh and West Vir­gin­ia. Temple, Penn State and a pleth­ora of Big Ten and Pa­cific-12 schools are in­ter­ested (Miller has around two dozen of­fers in hand, and said he isn’t likely to make a de­cision un­til after his seni­or sea­son).

Miller is a ter­ri­fy­ing end rush­er, and his 4.68 40-yard dash al­lows him to get in­to the of­fens­ive back­field in the blink of an eye. He can sack the quar­ter­back with ease and can be a turnover-gen­er­at­ing ma­chine once he breaks through the line. 

“He’s a great pass rush­er, just a great ath­lete on the de­fens­ive side of the ball,” Co­hen said. “He has the cap­ab­il­ity to make plays that com­pletely change game situ­ations. He’s a very un­as­sum­ing young man and is by no means a ‘me guy.’ He listens, he’s fo­cused and he’s brought sta­bil­ity and quiet lead­er­ship to the team. The kids real­ize he’s a big-time play­er and that his pres­ence is go­ing to bring a lot of scouts to our games.”

The Pub­lic League it­self has re-format­ted a bit at the Class AAAA level, split­ting in­to two di­vi­sions. Wash­ing­ton, along with North­east, Lin­coln, King, Ol­ney, Roxbor­ough and Frank­lin, make up the ‘In­de­pend­ence’ Di­vi­sion, while Frank­ford, Fels, Bartram, Cent­ral, Gratz, Mast­baum and South­ern com­prise the ‘Liberty’ Di­vi­sion. With 14 teams par­ti­cip­at­ing at Class AAAA as op­posed to last year’s 11, there will cer­tainly be more in­trigue at­tached to who ul­ti­mately comes out on top.

For his part, Miller be­lieves that team will be Wash­ing­ton.

“I just want to come here, be a good lead­er and show guys you need to be will­ing to work for it,” he said. “Even though there’s some young guys, we’re hop­ing for a great year. I want to help my team­mates any way I can. I want to win a cham­pi­on­ship with this team. One of my goals is to get to col­lege, but for now my en­tire fo­cus is on Wash­ing­ton foot­ball.”

As far as dif­fer­ences go between his former and cur­rent pro­gram, Miller said there wasn’t much to re­port.

“Kind of sim­il­ar,” he said. “Both have good tra­di­tions, both teams want to win titles. I grew up in Frank­ford, so I came up play­ing with the same guys, so the only dif­fer­ence for me has been meet­ing new team­mates and coaches.”

As far as po­ten­tially win­ning a Pub­lic League crown at each school, wouldn’t that be something else?

“To win at both places? Man, that would mean a lot,” Miller said. “Es­pe­cially be­cause it’s my last chapter. It would be real great to win an­oth­er cham­pi­on­ship. Foot­ball is everything to me … it kept me off the streets where I’m from. It’s my way out, my life. It changed my life, and it’s a bless­ing to be stand­ing here on this field. It’s taught me that any­thing is pos­sible if you’re will­ing to work for it.”

And as far as his new team­mates go, Miller in­sists there’s no bad blood stem­ming from last year’s cham­pi­on­ship blo­wout.

“I joke around with some of those guys about it, but when we’re to­geth­er I tell them that I’m here now,” he said. “I’m with you. We’re go­ing to work hard and go get that cham­pi­on­ship to­geth­er.” ••

You can reach at emorrone@bsmphilly.com.

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