High School Football: Milton-Union holds off Northwestern in battle of unbeatens

With a six-point lead midway through the fourth quarter, Milton-Union High School football coach Bret Pearce had a simple message for his Bulldogs offense — don’t give Northwestern another chance to score.

Milton-Union held the ball for the final 7:24, hanging on to beat Northwestern 27-21 in a nonconference game on Friday night at Memorial Stadium.

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“We said let’s hold on to the ball because their offense is dangerous,” Pearce said. “They have some real playmakers and great coaching. We thought that was the best way to win, to not let them have the ball.”

Milton-Union senior A.J. Lovin scored two touchdowns as the Bulldogs improved to 3-0. Warriors junior Ben VanNoord had 125 total yards and scored two touchdowns for Northwestern (2-1). Senior quarterback Gavin Thomas went 9-for-14 for 124 yard through the air and rushed for 88 yards on 18 carries.

“It was a hard-fought game,” Pearce said. “Hats off to them. Every play mattered right up to the end.”

Lovin caught a 44-yard TD pass from senior Nathan Brumbaugh as time expired in the first quarter to give the Bulldogs a 6-0 lead.

The Warriors then recovered a fumble deep in Bulldogs territory which led to a 1-yard TD run by Kolton Berner to give Northwestern a 7-6 lead.

Three minutes later, VanNoord scored on an 89-yard touchdown pass from Gavin Thomas to make it 14-6.

Nathan Brumbaugh scored on a 1-yard run with three minutes remaining and converted the two-point attempt to tie the score at 14.

Lovin then returned a punt 83 yards for a touchdown as time expired in the first half, giving the Bulldogs (3-0) a 21-14 lead at the break.

“We were hoping they were going to punt it to him,” Pearce said. “Really that’s the difference in the game, that punt return with no time left on the clock in the first half … That’s the story of the game, one yard here or there and it’s a different outcome.”

The game was delayed 30 minutes due to lightning strikes near the stadium. After play resumed, the Warriors held the Bulldogs on third down from the four-yard line, forcing them into a field goal attempt that sailed wide.

On the next series, senior quarterback Nathan Brumbaugh hit freshman Blake Brumbaugh for a 30-yard TD pass late in the third quarter to give the Bulldogs a 27-14 lead.

VanNoord scored on a 24-yard run to pull the Warriors within six points at 27-21, but their offense wouldn’t get the ball back the rest of the way.

“If we can find a way to teach our kids to be resilient, we’re preparing them for life,” said Warriors coach Shane Carter. “I think we showed some resiliency there. It’d be nice to get a couple stops at the end. I think it was 4-and-4 or 4-and-5 and we needed to find a way to come downhill and make a play. That will be the next level in our program of being able to make those plays. I think that’s important.”

The Bulldogs converted three first downs to end the game, including a 4-and-4 from the Warriors 35-yard line.

“We expect to win and at the end of the day we didn’t,” Carter said. “We’ll go back to the drawing board. We’ve got to be coachable and get better.”

Northwestern hosts Clark County rival Shawnee (2-1) next Friday at Taylor Field. The Braves beat the Warriors in a thriller 40-35 last season.

“We’ve got to put this game behind us and move forward,” Carter said. “We’re excited to host them and look forward to having a good competition.”

The Bulldogs will face an undefeated opponent for the second straight game in Week 4 when Northridge (3-0) comes to Memorial Stadium in the Southwestern Buckeye League Buckeye Division opener. The Polar Bears trailed Troy Christian 16-0 at halftime, but fought back to win 28-22.

“We’ve got to refocus and get ready for league play,” Pearce said.

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