Brock Netter, Staff Writer
BAINBRIDGE — It must be nice to be Lane Mettler. All the Paint Valley junior has done this year is win.
Paint Valley went 11-1 on the gridiron with Mettler in the backfield rotation, scoring 12 touchdowns. Defensively, very few were better as he finished with 100 tackles and 11 sacks on the season (both were 2nd in the SVC).
That success has translated to the diamond where the Bearcats are 13-10, good enough to earn a No. 4 seed in the Division III Southeast District tournament draw. Throughout the baseball season, Mettler has served as the team’s ace, throwing 47 1/3 innings with a 1.78 ERA and 73 strikeouts.
We caught up with Mettler to talk about this past football season, playing for two Hall of Fame coaches, a couple of his teammates and much more.
Question: Let’s go back to football season where you guys put together the best season Paint Valley has had since 2015. What was the year like for you and what were some of your favorite moments?
Mettler: The season was awesome to me. It meant a lot getting that Gold Football and I think our team deserved it. During the off-season, our team didn’t take any breaks. If a kid wasn’t playing a sport, they were in the weight room getting better. It also meant a lot to us because our team is like family. Our bond is a big factor of what helped us be so good. There wasn’t one kid that didn’t get along with everyone. Having that kind of relationship with your team helps a ton. That also leads to some of my favorite moments. Most of them happened off the field. This year was the most fun I’ve ever had during a season. We made everything fun. There was never a dull moment in the field house either. Everyone was always goofing around.
Q: Tough question coming. Which moment was bigger for you and why? The Gold Ball or beating Grandview Heights in the playoffs?
LM: I’d say winning the Gold Ball was bigger for me. We didn’t have the greatest seasons my freshman and sophomore years, so it felt great for us to get back on top. We were always confident and knew we could do it. And the feeling of winning that last game to get the Gold Ball was incredible. All the blood, sweat and tears our team put into the game paid off.
Q: Winning on the gridiron has translated to winning on the diamond where you guys are 13-10 so far. You also lead the SVC in strikeouts this season. How have you been so effective on the bump?
LM: I’ve just been taking this season one pitch at a time and I have confidence in my defense. Pitching is easier when you have guys behind you that you trust are going to make plays for you. So I know if I just keep putting the ball in the strike zone and do my thing, if they hit the ball, my defense will have my back.
Q: You have your defense behind you, and at the dish, Macky McDonald has been a monster for Paint Valley. From your perspective, how impressive has he been?
LM: Macky has been very impressive this year. He’s one of the best all-around players in the league no doubt. His bat has been great this year and so has his defense. He’s a key player for this team and he shows that every game we play in.
Q: You’re in a fortunate position to be coached by two of the very best in southern Ohio in football and baseball. What is it like playing for coach [Pete] Hollon and coach [Shayne] Combs? How have they helped shape you into the young man that you are today?
LM: It’s been great playing for coach Hollon and coach Combs. They’ve helped shape me into the man I am today because it’s not just about the sport or winning to them. They care about their players way more than any game we play in. They always want what’s best for their players and they let you know that. And as a player, that feels great having coaches that actually care for you and your teammates. I wouldn’t ask for any other coaches. They’ve helped me and my game a ton and I couldn’t thank them enough for that.
Q: The tournament starts next week where you guys are a No. 4 seed in Division III. What are your goals and expectations for the tournament run?
LM: Our goal is just like every other teams’, and that’s to make it to the state championship. Our expectations are to come in and play every game like it’s our last because it could be. We have to come into every game focused and ready to play.
Q: You’re a part of a loaded junior class that still has one season left in a Bearcat uniform. When it’s all said and done, and you walk across the stage to graduate, what legacy are you hoping the senior class of 2020 leaves behind?
LM: I just hope we show the underclassmen that hard work pays off and how to work as a team. I have a special class. Every single kid works hard and pushes each other. There may be team captains, but everyone is a leader on our team. We succeed together and we fail together. We never blame each other or fight, we pick each other up and overcome. I hope the underclassmen see that, learn from it, and try to build the same bond. Having a bond like that with your teammates is a key part to having a successful team in all sports. Another key of our team being successful is that we’re unselfish. No one on the team gets mad or upset about playing time. We care more about winning than any individual stat.