WEST MILTON — After Milton-Union’s 28-14 win on Friday, Franklin coach Rodney Roberts tracked down Milton running back Tyler Wilson to praise the Bulldogs’ toughness and tenacity. If only it had been that easy for the rest of the Wildcats to chase down the ’Dogs.
Milton’s running game piled up 294 yards rushing and scored four touchdowns — highlighted by Wilson’s 41-yard rumble through traffic destined for YouTube.com — to remain undefeated. While the ’Dogs were running loose, the Wildcats found themselves collared.
Franklin entered the game averaging 270 rushing yards per game. They managed just 13 at Milton’s Memorial Stadium. The Wildcats defense also entered surrendering just 79 yards rushing.
“(Coach Roberts) got me after the game and told me we were one of the most physical teams he’s ever played,” said Wilson, also a standout at linebacker. “We take that as a compliment. Our senior class has always played defense like that.”
A week ago, Milton set the school record for fewest rushing yards allowed (minus-36) in a 51-2 win over Middletown Madison. On Friday, the Bulldogs recorded five sacks, recovered three fumbles and intercepted one pass. Franklin punted six times and crossed midfield once through the first three quarters.
“Give Milton credit. (Coach Bret Pearce) is doing a great job and they have some players,” said Roberts. “I mean that sincerely. They really get after you.”
That includes the offense, too. With the passing game limited with Franklin’s 3-5 defensive alignment, Milton loaded up the ground game. Trevor Luckenbill rushed 23 times for 151 yards and touchdown and Wilson had 18 carries for 135 yards and two scores. Brendon Johnson added a 1-yard TD.
Milton (4-0, 1-0 Southwestern Buckeye League’s Southwestern Division) scored on its first two drives — the second set up by Josh DeHart’s fumble recovery — and led 14-0 with 2:17 left in the first quarter. It stayed that way until the half, but could have been much worse. Matt Lane’s fumble recovery ended Franklin’s next drive and Patrick Thoele’s interception stalled another.
“Try to get 11 hats on the ball, play fast and play quick,” Wilson said of the ’Dogs defensive philosophy.
At times Friday, Franklin (3-1, 0-1 SWBL) probably wanted to count those red Bulldogs helmets to make sure there weren’t 15 on the field. Quarterback Tyler Wulff lost 43 yards rushing thanks to the five sacks. Milton’s front five of nose guard Derrick Vargo, defensive tackles Zach Byrkett and Teddy Chapa and defensive ends Lane and Todd Daley helped shut down the Wildcats. Wulff did do some damage through the air. He completed 12-of-18 passes for 173 yards and a score. That TD strike — a 49-yarder down the middle that Drew Kaer hauled after it deflected off a Milton defender’s finger tips — pulled the Wildcats to 28-14 with 3:40 left in the game.
Franklin’s on-side kick was covered up by Milton, which then ran out the clock.
“We know we’re physical and we hoped we could keep them out of a flow,” Pearce said of slowing Franklin’s offense. “If they get their offense flowing, every play comes off the next and they’re very hard to stop.”
Franklin’s defense, meanwhile, started to wear down against Milton’s grinding ground game. Wilson — a 5-foot-10, 205-pound hammer — pounded the Wildcats inside, while Luckenbill — a shifty back with quick cuts — both slipped between the tackles and stretched runs outside. It was Wilson’s second TD that did the most damage.
Wilson took the hand off to the left, stepped inside and broke a couple tackles and bounced off a big hit. He spun out of another tackle near the sideline, pulled away from another miss and rumbled 41 yards for the 28-7 lead with 5:58 left in the game.
“As a coach you can try to practice every situation a kid is going to be in, but that was just a football player making a football play,” Pearce said.
“I said in my stance I was going to try and score on this play,” said Wilson.
Milton will need that same attitude next Friday. Valley View (3-1) visits in another SWBL showdown. The Spartans won’t be happy coming off their first loss, a 21-14 setback to Oakwood.
“Our league is going to be a lot of fun for fans,” Roberts said. “It’s going to be a war week in and week out.”