Preseason football: Milton-Union Bulldogs

Team: Milton-Union Bulldogs

Division/Region: D-V, Region 18; switched from D-V, Region 20 last season.

Affiliation: Southwestern Buckeye League Buckeye Division.

Location: Memorial Stadium, West Milton (Miami County).

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Head coach: Bret Pearce, who begins his second stint as the Bulldogs’ head coach. Previously led Milton football from 2000-12, taking six teams into the postseason. Didn’t exactly part ways; served as an assistant for and succeeds Mark Lane, who gave up coaching to become athletic director.

Assistant coaches: Larry Thoele, RB/DB; Chad Gostomsky, OL/DL; Kyle Roy, WR; Matt Bracci, OLB; Jeremy Lee, DC/ILB.

2017 records: 3-3 SWBL, 4-6 overall.

2017 highlights: Midseason losses to Preble Shawnee, Middletown Madison and a 49-35 shootout setback to Brookville dropped Milton out of playoff contention.

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Graduated senior Zac Shields was first team All-Southwest District as a RB and first team All-SWBL Buckeye as a DB. He put a personal-best 204 yards rushing and four TDs on visiting Northridge in 69-35 Week 4 win. He also became the Bulldogs’ all-time career rushing leader with 3,258 yards and 38 TDs.

Key returners:

Connor Gostomsky, 5-9, 180, sr., ILB.

Robbie Grove, 6-3, 195, sr., RB; 813 yards rushing, 6 TDs; second team All-SWBL.

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William Morris, 5-11, 185, sr., QB; 481 yards passing, 4 TDs, 10 INTs.

A.J. Lovin, 5-9, 165, jr., WR/DB.

Michael Whitmer, 6-1, 185, jr., ILB.

About the Bulldogs: Milton-Union football has been among the area’s best small-school programs dating back to the Wat Farrar era that began in the mid-1960s. Pearce has taken the re-up challenge to rekindle that magic. Don’t bet against that happening.

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Under Pearce, Milton fielded its first six playoff teams. Milton was 10-3 in 2012, falling to unbeaten and eventual D-IV state champ Clinton-Massie in a regional final. Lane, a former Bulldogs football and wrestling standout, led Milton the last four seasons (21-21 overall, 15-9 SWBL). His best team was 8-4 (5-1) in 2016.

Morris and Grove are proven backfield mates, but there’s no experienced linemen, on offense or defense.

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One major SWBL crossover schedule change. Defending Southwestern Division champ Valley View (11-1) will host Milton in Week 8. The Spartans bump Brookville, ending a four-season series. Three of Milton’s final four games are on the road, which will make or break the Bulldogs’ playoff bid, including a Week 10 game at Carlisle.

Schedule: All at 7 p.m.

Week 1: Fri., Aug. 24 MIAMI EAST

Week 2: Fri., Aug. 31 OAKWOOD

Week 3: Fri., Sept. 7 at Springfield Northwestern

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Week 4: Fri., Sept. 14 at Northridge

Week 5: Fri., Sept. 21 MIDDLETOWN MADISON

Week 6: Fri., Sept. 28 WAYNESVILLE

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Week 7: Fri., Oct. 5 at Preble Shawnee

Week 8: Fri., Oct. 12 at Valley View

Week 9: Fri., Oct. 19 DIXIE

Week 10: Fri., Oct. 26 at Carlisle

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