Carlisle-Milton: A showdown for the SWBL Buckeye’s top spot

The Carlisle Indians take the field for their season-opening game against Franklin on Aug. 26. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

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The Carlisle Indians take the field for their season-opening game against Franklin on Aug. 26. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

With a chance to lock up at least a share of the Southwestern Buckeye League Buckeye Division title, the Carlisle High School football team is focused on one mantra this week: The goal is attainable.

Carlisle (5-2 overall, 4-0 SWBL) hosts Milton-Union (5-2, 3-0 SWBL) on Friday in a showdown for first place in the Buckeye Division. The Indians have one more division game remaining against one-loss Dixie on Oct. 28, while Milton-Union has two left.

“We understand it’s a pretty important week for our conference, both of us being undefeated,” Carlisle coach Mike Brown said. “We don’t talk about it in terms of winning the conference. We talk about our goal being attainable, and Milton-Union stands in the way of achieving our goals.”

Like Carlisle, Milton-Union is a run-first team. However, the Bulldogs also have shown the ability to stretch the field with quarterback Zach Vagedes throwing for 780 yards and nine touchdowns.

Krue Thwaits (588 yards and five touchdowns rushing) and Zac Shields (431 yards and three touchdowns rushing) give Milton-Union a strong one-two punch out of the backfield, and Blake Smith (411 yards and five touchdowns receiving) is a threat outside in the Wing-T offense.

“I think they want to run, but they can do both well,” Brown said. “They have dangerous athletes that can do some things. Defensively, it’s going to be a challenge.”

Spencer Mays leads the Carlisle defense with three fumble recoveries and an interception, while Reece Human accounts for 3.5 sacks.

The Indians boast one of the most productive offenses in the league, averaging 327.1 yards per game with Ridge Reed accounting for 1,088 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground and D.J. Chambers (328 yards rushing, four touchdowns) and Zayne Hart (255 yards rushing, three touchdowns) also stepping up.

Quarterback Jake Moore has just 244 yards passing and five touchdowns with one interception.

“If Ridge Reed was their only good running back, he would be the focus, but they have other weapons,” Milton-Union coach Mark Lane said. “If you focus on stopping him, they will hurt you in other spots, so we are working on defending their offense.”

Lane said his defense has been strong against the run this season, but the Bulldogs haven’t faced a back like Reed. If they can force Carlisle to pass, Lane is confident in his secondary, which is led by William Morris’ four interceptions.

Carlisle also has momentum on its side, entering on a five-game win streak following two 30-27 defeats to open the season. Milton-Union is coming off a 28-19 loss to Brookville last week. The Indians last won a division title in 2013, and the Bulldogs shared a title with them in 2012.

“It’s definitely a big game,” Lane said. “It’s the two teams on top of the conference, so everyone knows what’s on top of the line. It should be a good matchup.”

Friday’s game

What: Milton-Union (5-2, 3-0 SWBL Buckeye) at Carlisle (5-2, 4-0 SWBL Buckeye), 7 p.m.

Where: Laughlin Field, 250 Jamaica Road, Carlisle

Last meeting: Milton-Union won 28-7 in 2015

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