QUICKSBURG — Devin Miller has played just one position for the last nine years and this year he played that position — center midfield — as well as he ever has.
The Stonewall Jackson senior had a strong year for the Generals as he helped lead them to the Class 1 state tournament for the second straight season.
“I enjoy playing (center midfield) because I can control (the field),” Miller said. “It’s a lot of running, but I don’t care about the running too much.”
Miller, The Northern Virginia Daily’s 2019 Boys Soccer Player of the Year, said that he began playing at center-mid when he played for his Under-10 travel team in the Shenandoah County Soccer League. That team was coached by Stonewall Jackson boys soccer coach Matt Burgwald.
Miller said that he enjoys getting assists and trying to move the ball down the field to his forwards.
“I am usually trying to find an open spot to where I can fit the ball in and get the winger or striker get a run to it and hopefully score,” Miller said.
One of Miller’s favorite plays this season came on an assist to teammate Orly Espinal.
“I (sent a ball) right through the left back and the center back,” Miller said. “I split them just right and (Espinal) just went to it and scored.”
Burgwald said that he knew even when Miller was playing for his U-10 travel team that he would make a great center-mid.
“He’s a strong attack player,” Burgwald said. “He’s a good passer, great shooter, strong legs.”
Burgwald said Miller is a good leader for the team and someone he can trust.
“He’s improved more on his character,” Burgwald said. “He’s already a great soccer player. So being able to fight through games that we should have won and not lose your mind and still maintain your composure is super important when so many kids do lose their mind. Devin is a young man that he and I have worked together for so long. I definitely counted on him for a lot of our day-to-day stretching, etcetera. It’s very good as a coach to have a player that knows what I want, where I don’t need to yell it.”
Miller earned the Region 1B Player of the Year this season and said he enjoyed playing for the team despite some ups and downs on the field.
He said one of the highlights of the season was beating Shenandoah District and Region 1B rival Riverheads three times. The Generals won each game against Riverheads by at least two goals.
“I don’t think we were sure about the first two Riverheads games because in previous years they were a very strong team,” Miller said. “So we walked in there with the right mindset and we came out victorious all three times.”
The Generals overcame some early struggles and won seven of 10 games, before eventually falling in the Class 1 state quarterfinals. Miller said the group of eight seniors began to take more leadership with the team and that helped the Generals improve.
“I think what turned it around for us was when it started getting towards the end for the seniors we decided we needed to step it up, kick our butts in gear and go,” Miller said. “I think that was definitely motivation for the younger ones because none of us wanted to stop. I think that motivated some of the younger ones to kick their butts into gear, too.”
Miller said that winning the Region 1B title two years in a row was special to him as well. Miller said that what makes winning the region title even sweeter was being a part of the team his freshman and sophomore years, when the team had very little success.
“It feels good, it feels real good,” he said. “It’s something I didn’t think would happen the first two years because of how tough it was for us to win games. The inexperience we had then. The first two years I really think helped us a lot in bonding as a team to get us back to where we did this year and last year.”
The Generals lost a close 1-0 game to Northumberland in the state quarterfinals, but Miller said he was happy with the season, despite the loss.
“I felt like I had my best season out of my entire career,” Miller said. “It’s very special to get (Region 1B) Player of the Year, but I’m sad that it didn’t end the way I wanted to. ...If we would have went out a different way it would have went a lot better. But after losing the way we did — dominating the whole game — what happens, happens. You can’t change it. It was good but also bittersweet.”