O-line pushes Milford into playoff race
MILFORD – With one week left in the regular season, Milford finds itself in the thick of the Division II playoff race.
The Spartans’ offensive line has paved the way.
Senior right tackle Collin Cederberg, junior right guard Michael Boucher, senior center Adam Johnson, junior left guard Jaxson Mims and junior left tackle Ryan Costello have been at the forefront of Milford’s success. The unit’s ability to consistently generate running room has enabled the Spartans to deploy a variety of weapons, while strong pass blocking has aided the quick development of Milford’s first-year starting quarterback, junior Zach King.
Milford (6-2) is averaging 29.5 points per game.
"That’s one good thing about our offense," Milford head coach Keith Jones said. "We don’t key on one guy. We just try to take what the defense is giving us. Sometimes one guy will have a big night, and sometimes it’s another guy.
"Collin Cederberg and Adam Johnson, the seniors, have kind of been the anchors."
Milford offensive line coach Rick Urda admires the group’s dedication.
"They come to work every day. They’re willing to put in the time. They’re constantly working on technique," Urda said of the line. "Perhaps the most valuable thing, they don’t just go out there and try to run a play. They’re going to ask questions – what is the linebacker doing here? What is the technique of this defensive tackle or defensive end?
"They’re willing to ask the questions so they can gain more knowledge. It is a craft, being an offensive lineman," Urda said.
"They don’t get their names in the paper a whole lot, but they can take a little pride in the fact that other kids are getting their names in the paper because of them."
Cederberg, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound captain, is the lightest of the bunch – the line averages 6-1, 240 – but the senior is skilled and is also a major defensive presence for the Spartans.
He says cohesiveness is a large factor in a successful push up front.
"Always communicating helps out to know what you’re doing," Cederberg said. "We have five other backs cycling through at all times, so we just get in sync with each other through communication and it works out."
Johnson (6-foot, 235 pounds) converted to center after playing guard/tackle last year and agreed with his longtime teammate.
"Communication does definitely help. It’s a key to our offense," Johnson said. "Our coaches have drilled it into our minds."
Cederberg and Johnson have been playing together since the "second or third grade." That kind of familiarity can go a long way.
"You definitely learn the strengths and weaknesses of your fellow teammates, so it helps," Johnson said. "You know what to help on. You know what they can deal with – the size they can hold off on; if you need to double team to help them get rid of anybody."
Boucher (6-2, 260) might be the most talented in the Milford trenches and leads a stellar crop of juniors alongside a much-improved Costello (6-1, 240) and reliable Mims (6-1, 250).
"When (Boucher) gets his mind set to it, he really attacks whether it’s a base block on a defensive tackle lined up in front of him or pulling out around and leading a speed sweep or a waggle," Urda said. "They’re all pretty talented and when they want to get after it, they get after it. We’re proud of them."
Depth is always a factor over the course of a football season and Milford has also received big contributions from Brent Furtado-Stavolta, Alex Taylor and Nik Lapan.
"It’s not just a group of five that gets all the reps," Urda explained. "They’re willing to help each other out and they’re ready to go when their number is called."
The Spartans will host Plymouth (6-2) in a crucial battle on Friday at Milford High School starting at 7 p.m. Playoff hopes for both teams could be on the line, depending on what happens to postseason contenders around the state. Currently there are nine teams with six wins or more vying for eight playoff spots.
After reaching the D-II semifinals a season ago, the Milford seniors want to finish with a flourish.
"I think every year I’ve been a Spartan, we’ve been in the playoffs," Cederberg said, "so why not make it senior year? A deep push in the playoffs would be nice."
"It would mean everything," Johnson said. "Hopefully, we can bring it all the way this year."