NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Ahyan Brown-Miller's savvy and leadership was on display on the final play in New Brunswick High School's impressive win over perennial powerhouse Piscataway last Friday.
Piscataway completed a pass to move the ball inside the Zebras' 20. If the receiver was able to get out of bounds, the Chiefs would have had enough time to run another play.
Brown-Miller, however, wasn't going to allow that to happen.
"My goal was just to keep him in bounds for the rest of the time on the clock," he said. "I was just holding him up. He kept trying to get out of bounds and I just kept pushing him in and then he fell."
By then, time had expired, and the Zebras began to celebrate their 13-7 victory at Memorial Stadium.
It was fitting that Brown-Miller would make the game-ending tackle because his skills and leadership were so instrumental to the victory.
Of all the plays he made that night, none were more important than his interception at New Brunswick's 15-yard-line. It quelled one Piscataway's longest drives of the game.
And when he wasn't making game-saving plays, his leadership helped keep the Zebras focused during an intense battle that featured several pad-popping hits.
"He leads," said coach Nate Harris, when asked what Brown-Miller brings to the team. "He just commands attention. He's not going to accept anything short of our goal. We have a saying, 'Standards over feelings.' He enforces that saying. When guys emotionally or mentally check out, he is someone we can depend on to be a coach on the field."
Being a leader didn't always come easily, however.
"As I transitioned into high school, it became a priority," said Brown-Miller, who returned an interception for a touchdown in the season-opening victory over Monroe. "I haven't always been a leader. I had to change some tendencies and change the way I act. For some people. You have to adapt to how everyone acts."
Brown-Miller says he tends to lead by example for the younger players. For the seniors, he tends to be more vocal.
He's a weapon on both sides of the ball, but in his heart of hearts, he's a defensive player first. After all, he saw his first varsity action on the defensive side of the ball as a sophomore.
As a junior, he showed up to camp with more confidence than years past. He also brought a sledgehammer with him.
"Last year, I was locked in on defense," he said. "I went to camp as a defensive player. I was just locked in. I wanted to be the enforcer on defense."
Adorned in blue and white, the hammer has become a symbol of the team's hard-hitting approach.
Coach Harris has been impressed with how his team has moved on from its big victory against Piscataway and began focusing on tonight's opponent. North Brunswick is stocked with big-play talent. In fact, the Raiders have six special teams touchdowns this season.
One of those game-breakers the Zebras will be watching from the 7 p.m. opening kickoff will be Dahvay Hicks. Hicks, who transferred from New Brunswick, has helped re-energize the Raiders. He's scored two touchdowns in the opening-night victory, snapping an eight-game losing streak. The Raiders (3-1) have added wins over Sayreville and Edison.
"He's a phenomenal athlete," said Harris. "He's a top-notch athlete. He approaches the game the right way, hard-working kid. It's good to have been a part of his growth. But Friday night, he's going to be on the other side."