The season is only two weeks old, but if Milton-Union’s 35-7 road win over Sidney Lehman Catholic on Friday is any indication, the Bulldogs are starting to believe in themselves. If they continue to play on this level everyone else might just start to believe in them, too.
“We just didn’t play very well, and Milton-Union did,” a disappointed Lehman Catholic head coach Richard Roll said. “They are a very, very good team. They are building a tradition over there in Milton and that’s where we want to be. We just aren’t there yet.”
It would be a mistake to read too much from the outcome of this game when trying to divine the future of Lehman Catholic. The Cavaliers played perennially tough Anna to a 7-3 standstill in a heartbreaking loss last Friday. There are those that believe Lehman Catholic could go deep into the OSHAA Division VI playoffs.
Ordinarily, the Cavaliers rely on the steady workmanship of their star senior running back Daniel Jacob. On this evening, he would end up with 80 yards and Lehman Catholic’s lone touchdown on 18 carries.
Milton-Union, on the other hand, is a veteran Division IV playoff contender. Last year, with two-time all state first team quarterback Mitchell Evans at the helm, they had enough computer points to have made the playoffs and hosted a game in Division II.
If there was a turning point in this intriguing early season match up it would have been late in the first quarter. Impatient early in the contest, the Lehman brain trust went for it on fourth and one from its own 40-yardline. Running from a split back set, senior quarterback Spencer Peltier was immediately overwhelmed and caught from behind for a loss on an option keeper.
On the next play from scrimmage, Bulldog senior wing back, Brendon Johnson, broke back over the middle on a counter right and found the end zone 40 yards away to make the score 14-0.
A valuable role player last year, but a role player just the same, Johnson is starting to come into his own as a senior.
“Johnson is a stud back,” Milton-Union head coach Bret Pearce said. “He has some great moves. I’ve been telling everybody that will listen that we have three great backs. Some people have been focusing on the other two as well as focusing on players that aren’t even here tonight, but they got a great peak at what Johnson can do tonight.”
Offensive captain, Tyler Wilson, led the balanced Bulldog attack with 119 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries—while also leading the defense in tackles as the middle linebacker. Johnson had 116 yards and a touchdown with on 19 carries. Senior co-captain Trevor Luckenbill caught a pass for a touchdown and threw down 80 yards on 15 carries just for fun.
The Milton-Union running attack combined for 325 yards Friday night compared to 106 yards for Lehman Catholic. There’s your story.
Another story is that Milton-Union is still dangerous even without Evans. That’s not what the experts were predicting. The evolution of his replacement, 6-foot-5 junior Jon Mason, continues to be a hot topic wherever cold beer is served.
“Jon is moving along exactly as we want him to,” Pearce smiled. “He makes good throws when we need him to make good throws. He’s making good decisions and he even had another touchdown pass tonight. He grows every week.”
Mason was just 2-4 passing for 18 yards and a touchdown—but he had no turnovers, something that even the nearly mythic Evans had problems with at times.
“He’s going to be fine making plays when we need him to make plays,” Pearce continued. “We just don’t want to put him in situations, yet, where he has to win the game for us. Right now, he just needs to get the ball to the right guy and let those guys do their job. We have a lot of faith in him, that he can do that for us.”
The Bulldogs traditionally run the wing-T offense and this year is no different. The key to executing the offense is misdirection and sleight of hand.
“Everybody looks at the quarterback’s job as just a thrower, but I’ll tell you what,” said Pearce motioning wildly. “John does such a great job with his fakes and carrying them out. He keeps the defenses guessing. If we can split their vision–if half of their team is running away from the ball carrier–we have a much better shot at having a big play.”
“I really think that we have built a program. I know that there are a lot of people around the Dayton area who feel that Milton-Union has been one player, one great quarterback. I think people are starting to see that maybe, just maybe we know how to play a little football around here.”
During last year’s dream season, the only thing this skeptical writer could really point to as being a flaw with the Bulldogs resurgent program would have been their kicking. If your life truly depended on them being able to kick an extra point then you needed to start getting your things in order. This year their kicker, senior Ken Brackman, is booming the ball through the uprights with an authority rarely seen on the high school level.
The turnaround is remarkable.
“He came out halfway through last year, and had never kicked a football before. He was on the cross-country team and was good at kicking a soccer ball. He was a work in progress last season, good but very inconsistent.
“We have had a whole year to work with him and he has done it willingly. He’s had individual instruction and worked in camps. So, his consistency has improved and that is what we are starting to see now.”