By David Fong
WEST MILTON — Greeneview’s Ethan Bradds missed most of the second half of the football season with an injury.
He returned just in time to save the Rams’ season with a blocked extra point attempt that would have tied the game in a thrilling 35-34 win over Milton-Union in a Division V regional quarterfinal playoff game Friday. With the win, Greeneview (8-3) moved on to the regional semifinals, while Milton-Union (6-5) saw its season come to an end in its first playoff appearance since 2012.
“This is a tough way to lose,” Milton coach Mark Lane said. “I hate to lose this way. I love these kids.”
It was a heartbreaking end to a furious comeback attempt by the Bulldogs. Down 35-28 late in the game, Milton pulled within a point when quarterback Blake Smith hooked up with Keaton Lucous on a 14-yard touchdown pass, setting up the extra point attempt by Kaleb Rue. Bradds stretched out every inch of his 6-foot-6 frame to make the block.
“We never thought about it,” Lane said of the possibility of going for the win with a two-point conversion. “We had all the momentum at that point.”
Greeneview would recover the onside kick but was forced to punt, giving Milton the ball at their own 4-yard line with 1:09 left to play. Milton would drive to midfield on several long scrambles by Smith before Greeneview’s Harrison Gallagher picked off a Smith pass to end the game.
Early in the second half, it didn’t look like Milton would even get such a last chance.
Greeneview, up 28-14 at halftime, would extend that lead to 35-14 — and appeared to be on the verge of putting the game out of reach — when Logan Test broke loose on a 42-yard touchdown run just three plays into the second half.
From there, however, Milton began a monumental comeback, converting a pair of fourth downs on a drive that was capped off by a 21-yard touchdown run by Kaleb Rue, cutting Greeneview’s lead to 35-21. Milton’s defense then forced a punt, with the Bulldogs taking over at their own 14.
Milton promptly put together an 84-yard touchdown drive, with quarterback Blake Smith and running back Zac Shields chewing up large chunks of yardage before Shields scored from 18-yards out, cutting the lead to 35-28.
“Our kids never quit,” Lane said. “They don’t know the meaning of the word.”
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, several early miscues led to a hole simply too deep to overcome.
Things got off to as bad a start as possible for Milton-Union, which took the opening kickoff and was forced to punt after going three-and-out. Punter Kaleb Rue couldn’t handle the bad snap, allowing Greeneview to take over at the Bulldog 17.
Two plays later, Greeneview’s Jacob Green scored on a 9-yard touchdown run, giving the Rams an early 7-0 lead.
Milton again went nowhere on its next drive and a short punt gave the Rams the ball at their own 38. Quarterback Collin Matt completed several passes, while tailback Logan Test broke off several long runs, setting up Matt’s 13-yard touchdown run, extending the Rams’ lead to 14-0.
Milton’s Krue Thwaits returned the ensuing kickoff 60 yards to the Greeneview 34, however. From there, Milton quarterback Blake Smith completed long passes to Rue and Tommy Smith, setting up Rue’s 11-yard touchdown run, cutting Greeneview’s lead to 14-7.
Greeneview against answered, however, capping off a nine-play drive with a 1-yard quarterback keeper by Matt, extending the Rams’ lead to 21-7.
Greeneview appeared on the verge of blowing the game open when it forced Milton into a fourth-and-one at its own 35. The Bulldogs gambled and went for it. With Greeneview packing the middle of the line, Milton’s Zac Shields took the ball around the right side and went 65 yards, untouched for the score to cut Greeneview’s lead to 21-14 and seemingly giving Milton some much-needed momentum.
That swing in momentum was short-lived, however, as Greeneview needed just four plays to answer, with Matt scoring from 23 yards out, his third rushing touchdown of the first half. With the score, Greeneview took a 28-14 lead into halftime.
“I still love these kids,” Lane said. “They gave it everything they had.”
Contact David Fong at [email protected]; follow him on Twitter @thefong.