By David Fong
WEST MILTON — For four years, Mark Lane gave everything he had to the Milton-Union High School football and wrestling teams.
One of the few things Lane — a state runner-up as a heavyweight wrestler — could not help deliver, however, was a football playoff berth.
Now as a head coach at his alma mater, however, Lane — in just his second year after taking over Milton’s program — has delivered on that, as well. Lane will lead Milton-Union (6-4) against Greeneview (7-3) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Milton in a Division V regional quarterfinal playoff game.
“It feels great,” Lane said of earning a trip to the playoffs at his former high school. “People in West Milton expect us to be in the playoffs and to be a contender. It feels really good to be able to do this for the community.”
Up next for the Bulldogs is a match-up with Greeneview, which plays in the Ohio Heritage Conference. During the regular season, the Rams handed Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy its only loss in the season opener, 35-28. It would be Greeneview’s only win over a team with a winning record.
Greeneview lost to Madison Plains (4-6), West Liberty-Salem (8-2) and Mechanicsburg (10-0). Both West Liberty-Salem and Mechanicsburg qualified for the Division VI playoffs.
“We know a little bit about them,” Lane said. “I know some of their coaches. They are a well-coached team and their kids play hard.”
Milton’s two biggest wins of the year came in the season opener against Miami East (8-2) and later in the season against Carlisle (6-4). Miami East reached the Division VI playoffs, while Carlisle qualified in Division V. Milton’s losses came against Tippecanoe (9-1), Middletown Madison (7-3), Brookville (10-0) and Waynesville.
Tippecanoe reached the playoffs in Division III, while Brookville is the top seed in Division V, Region 18 — and could possibly be Milton’s opponent should the Bulldogs win Friday.
On offense, the Rams run a two-pronged attack. It starts with running back Logan Test, who has carried the ball 174 times for 1,448 yards and 24 touchdowns. Quarterback Collin Matt has completed 69 of 123 passes (58.1 percent) for 849 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions. He spreads the ball around, with five different receivers coming into the game with at least 100 receiving yards, but none with more than 200 yards.
“They run a spread/power game,” Lane said. “Logan Test is an extremely fast running back who also runs very hard. Their quarterback is very good. They keep your on your toes. You can’t get too caught up defending the run or they can burn you with the pass. They’ve got a big offense line that can move people around.”
Milton is led by sophomore running back Zach Shields, who finished the regular season with 191 carries for 1,045 yards and eight touchdowns. Kaleb Rue had 84 carries for 654 yards and seven touchdowns, while Keaton Lucous had 68 carries for 311 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Quarterback Blake Smith made the most of his limited attempts, completing 38 of 89 passes for 720 yards, with 10 touchdowns and six interceptions. The Bulldogs leading receiver was Joey Swafford, who hauled in 14 catches for 300 yards, while Tommy Smith had six catches for 162 yards.
Defensively, Lane is concerned with the same thing he is offensively — the size of Greeneview’s line.
“They run a lot of pressure, a lot of slants and angles with their defensive line,” he said. “They’ve got a lot of big guys up front, just like they do on offense. They are bigger than on both lines.”
One thing Lane is not worried about, however, is his team’s confidence heading into the playoffs.
“The football team is proud to be back in the playoffs,” he said. “A lot of people are probably surprised, but we are a work in progress. This started the second half of last season and carried into this season. The kids are really excited to be in the playoffs.”
Contact David Fong at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong