First impression: Gladiators rout Renegades in debut at Stocker Stadium
Mo Miller’s first love is basketball.
But since the former Mesa State College basketball player has exchanged his high tops and shorts for the cleats and pads of the Grand Junction Gladiators, things have been going pretty well.
Saturday night at Stocker Stadium, Miller threw three first-half touchdown passes in a 47-12 win over the Rocky Mountain Renegades in the Gladiators’ first home game of the season.
“It always feels good throwing three touchdown passes,” the 6-foot-5, 235-pound Miller said. “We had a nice turnout, so the adrenaline runs when you do stuff like that.”
Miller was an all-state quarterback at Sheldon High School in Sacramento, Calif., in 2002, but chose to pursue basketball at the next level. After spending time at Cabrillo (Calif.) College, Miller signed with Mesa State in 2005, but never made it to the court because of health reasons.
“I had a lot of injuries. When I first stepped on campus, I was dealing with a bulging disc,” Miller said. “But three or four years later, I’m healthy enough to do something and it’s been fun to get back out here and compete on the football field.”
Miller started things off right for the Gladiators, connecting with Jesse Kirstatter on a 69-yard touchdown pass to open the game. Grand Junction didn’t wait long to strike again.
With two minutes remaining in the first quarter, Miller found Lawrence Scott for a 39-yard touchdown pass.
“Going into the first couple games, we were having a lot of timing issues on offense,” Miller said. “Before we left so many points on the field, but we looked at the film and made the corrections and it’s really paid off.”
The Gladiators’ 3-0 start is in large part because of their defense, which came through at the beginning of the second quarter. Linebacker John Wirth intercepted Zach Earp and returned it 11 yards for a touchdown.
The defensive score put the Gladiators up 21-0.
Miller put the game away connecting with Scott again, this time for 36 yards and a 27-0 lead.
“We needed the teams and fans to see that we are for real,” Miller said. “We are out here playing really hard and supporting each other as a team.”
The Gladiators had another defensive score in the first half when B.J. Stone returned another interception 26 yards for a touchdown.
Kirstatter scored on a 17-yard run to give the Gladiators the 41-0 halftime lead.
“We want to continue to get better,” Miller said. “But we hit our stride tonight.”