WEST CHESTER TWP., Ohio — Lakota West senior linebacker Aden Miller exemplifies what it means to be a captain for the Firebirds this season.
"I honestly think he's probably he's one of the most underrated high school football players here in Cincinnati," Lakota West coach Tom Bolden said. "He's a 5-foot-11 mike backer [middle linebacker] that if he was probably two to three inches taller he'd probably have multiple D-I scholarship offers."
Miller, a three-year starter, has a team-leading 80 tackles (44 solo) for the Firebirds (10-1) who play St. Xavier (10-2) in a Division I regional semifinal Friday night at Princeton.
Lakota West is meeting St. X for a second time this season after the Bombers won 31-14 at home in the season opener Aug. 20.
"Man, I can't wait," Miller said. "I don't even know how to put it into words. Like I'm extremely excited. It's probably the biggest game of my life considering it could be my last but I don't plan on it being my last so been up all night thinking about it."
The Firebirds don't have to say much around practice this week in order to be motivated. They know about the task ahead of them and what's at stake for the program.
St. X defeated Lakota West 10-7 in the 2020 regional final before the Bombers went on to win the Division I state title.
The Firebirds have waited for another opportunity to play St. X in the regional tournament.
"We just know we need to handle business or we're done," Miller said. "Especially on my level because I don't have that many offers so I know that this really could be my last chance of playing football so I know what I got to do."
Miller, 17, would like to play football at an NCAA Division I or II level. He'd like to earn a degree in kinesiology or exercise science and eventually become a physical therapist.
Bolden said a college program would benefit from having Miller in its program.
Miller has improved the Lakota West program by being a student-athlete who is a leader in the classroom, weight room and football field, Bolden said.
"He does everything you ask," Bolden said. "In the weight room, in the off-season, in the weight room during the season. He is strong. I mean it's impressive what he can do in the weight room. He's explosive. He never gets hurt, he never complains. He's just that guy."
Miller said he's grateful to be a captain with some of the most talented football players in the state and the nation.
That includes All-American Bowl commitments Jyaire Brown (defensive back/wide receiver) and Tegra Tshabola (offensive lineman) — both of whom are Ohio State verbal commitments — along senior defensive back/wide receiver Alex Afari (Kentucky), senior offensive lineman Lathan McComis and senior defensive lineman Bryan Henderson (Buffalo).
The chemistry among Miller and his teammates has been significant. That coincides with a family connection within the Lakota West football program. His elder brother, 2013 graduate Adam Miller, played defensive line for the Firebirds and is an avid follower of the team.
"It's been a fun season," Aden Miller said. "Just taking it one step at a time enjoying my last year. It's meant a lot to me in my life."