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Miller's time, and Pasco's, came in 1983

With the Pasco-Hernando high school football series resuming Friday after a two-year layoff, the Times is taking a weeklong look at memorable games and personalities.

Sometimes it came in the form of a subtle shift of position along the line of scrimmage. Other times it was a sweeping alteration in the way he lived his life.

Either way, "Millertime" was always memorable.

In Pasco County, most remember Miller for what has become known as "the block." In the final seconds of a crucial district game at Hernando High in 1983, Miller blocked a 43-yard field goal attempt by Chuck Yoder as time expired to give Pasco a dramatic 14-13 victory. The play permanently catapulted Miller into Dade City folklore.

Not only did it give Pasco the district title, it snapped a 10-game losing streak to the team's most bitter rival.

"It was the greatest moment of my football career," said Miller, who now lives in Tampa and works in the hotel business. "There was no time left on the clock and my team needed somebody to come through, and I did. I was so excited (after the block) that I forgot to pick up the ball and run it back for a touchdown. I could have because the ball was still live, but I just stood there jumping up and down."

Today, Miller, 30, is recovering from a stab wound. Last Thursday night, while walking to his family's home in Dade City, he said he was attacked by two men he referred to as members of the Lock Street gang. One of them stabbed him, he said. The wound, 4 inches deep, is in his left midlower back and resulted in a collapsed lung.

But this is how his legend unfolds:

Pasco entered that famous 1983 game working on an undefeated season (8-0). But the Pirates, who were 3-0 in the district, needed a win to secure a playoff spot. The problem was, Pasco had lost 10 straight games to Hernando.

"Without a doubt we went into the game knowing that we could win," Miller said. "We knew that they had beat us 10 straight times, but we felt we were the better team. We felt we were one of the best in the state."

Hernando's Theo Woods scored the game's first touchdown with a 2-yard run in the first quarter. But Pasco answered in the second quarter as quarterback Brad Starling found Gary Broner for an 8-yard touchdown pass.

The game remained tied at 7 until the final minutes of the fourth quarter. Hernando's Wesley Harris recovered a fumble at Pasco's 11. Two plays later Woods, who finished with 160 yards, gave the Leopards a 13-7 lead with a 6-yard touchdown run.

Quarterback Alan Stewart connected with Kevin Sutton for an apparent two-point conversion, but the play was called back on a penalty. An unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty dropped the Leopards 15 yards farther back, and the follow-up kick failed.

"I think the rest of the game showed what both teams were made of," said Miller, who was an all-conference defensive back.

Trailing by six, Pasco made its way to the Hernando 26 and, facing fourth down, Pasco coach Don Herndon opted for a Hail Mary pass. Starling found Greg Sims in the back of the end zone, and Pasco went ahead 14-13 with 1:15 left.

But Hernando drove the ball to Pasco's 21. With 6 seconds left, Yoder booted what appeared to be the game-winning 38-yard field goal. The Leopards, however, were penalized 5 yards for illegal procedure.

Then came time for a change.

In the midst of the penalty confusion, Miller switched positions on the line of scrimmage. The junior, who had lined up on the right side of the rush, moved to the left just before the kick. He had an open lane.

"I just decided to go over to the other side just because nothing was happening on that side," Miller said. "I don't think they noticed me. They had all their strong players on the right side, and I had a straight line to the kicker. I got it clean. There was nothing he could do."

Yoder, now a Hernando County sheriff's deputy, said, "I can still see Marvin coming out of the corner of my left eye, and as soon as my foot got to the ball he was all over it. It was a clean block. It was a great play."

The drama was not over.

As the Pirates gathered in the middle of the field to celebrate, one more element was added to the storied history. The sprinklers came on in the middle of the field and drenched the Pasco players, coaches and fans.

"Once we blocked that kick and got out there, the sprinklers went on immediately," said Pasco defensive coordinator Ricky Giles, a linebacker coach at the time. "Their players had already left the field, and we got wet. I can't say for sure that it was intentional, but everyone who was there at the time felt that they had done it on purpose."

Yoder, still recovering from the letdown of his blocked kick, said he noticed the sprinklers.

"I know to some of the folks it seemed like we turned the sprinklers on them," said Yoder, who also runs Yoder's Florist in downtown Brooksville. "But I think the sprinklers were on a timer and it was just a fluke."

All of it, Miller pointed out, came about because of change. And being willing to change would prove crucial for the defensive back in the following years.

After graduation, Miller's life spiraled downward. He sold drugs. He took drugs. Between 1988 and 1994, he was arrested and three times convicted of selling drugs. All three times he pleaded guilty and served, by his estimation, about three to four years in prison.

In June 1994, after being released from his third stint in prison, Miller said he finally tuned in to a song that had been playing in his heart from the day he was born. Marvin Miller found Christianity.

"I just realized that it was time to accept Jesus Christ," said Miller, a member of New Life Family Church in Dade City. "The Lord has always been there for me and all I had to do was give my life to him. It's the best change I ever made.

"I realize that he was there with me when I blocked that kick, and he was with me when I was doing the wrong things, I just didn't know it."

Miller said his bad past is history. "My life has turned around."