Steven Mills is 6-foot, 240 pounds of force, but when he's hunkered down on the Sachem North offensive line, his biggest asset is significantly smaller.
"His ability to snap the ball and move his feet, his quickness, is his second strength," coach Dave Falco said. "His first strength is that he's smart."
Mills' brain -- the thing that helped him see defensive adjustments as they were happening -- was integral in a Flaming Arrows offense that amassed nearly 4,000 yards. Sachem lost its quarterback, wingback and fullback to injury and leaned heavily on its seasoned offensive line to plow through the competition. Sachem North made it to the Suffolk I semifinals before falling to Floyd, the eventual Long Island champion.
It's because of his game-changing play, as a center and nose tackle, that Mills, a senior, earned the Zellner Award for the most outstanding lineman in Suffolk football, Monday night at the county coaches association awards dinner at the Hyatt Regency in Hauppauge.
"He was a big part of our success," Falco said. "We had such young players in the backfield . . . and with him, it's like having an offensive coordinator in the huddle."
Mills' smarts translated to the classroom, where he holds a 96 average. On the field, he was a leader -- a stabilizing force that helped stitch together a new offense filled with untested skill players.
"The younger guys really value Steven," Falco said. "It was comforting to have someone [in the huddle] that you can rely on . . . He understands schemes and checks, and things to look for in the defense."
And when it came down to brute strength, Mills had plenty of that, too. The winter wrestler is plenty strong, and knows how to knock down a target. Not that his intelligence didn't come into play when he needed to block an opponent.
"Well, he's a wrestler," Falco said. "So he used his understanding of leverage."
Smart kid, that Steven Mills.