Beating Bellbrook for the first time since 1981, Milton-Union claimed its first outright Southwestern Buckeye League title in 25 years and knocked the host Eagles out of the playoffs with a grueling 18-14 win in wet conditions.
The Bulldogs trailed 14-12 at halftime but took the lead on a 50-yard touchdown run by Trevor Luckenbill in the third quarter and staved off the Eagles with a fumble recovery on their own 5-yard line with 30 seconds left to improve to 9-1 overall and 4-1 in the SWBL Southwest Division. The Bulldogs will host a first round playoff game in Division IV, Region 16 next Saturday.
The Eagles, who were eighth in D-II, Region 8 computer points entering the game, finish 5-5, 3-2.
“This is humongous,” Milton coach Bret Pearce said. “We haven’t beaten them since we got back in the league and they’ve really had our number the last six years. To come here at their home and to come away with one in such a tight game feels good.”
Last year the Eagles ended Milton’s undefeated season with a 21-0 win in Week 10. There was no encore.
Bellbrook jumped out to a 7-0 lead but Milton answered with back-to-back touchdowns to take a 12-7 lead. Wilson scored the first on a 20-yard run and Luckenbill added the other on a 5-yard jaunt.
Bellbrook took the lead again in the second quarter despite torrential rains. Senior quarterback Ryan Rutledge ran for 11 yards on a crucial fourth-and-nine from the Milton 14-yard line. On the next play, Rutledge scored from 3 yards out.
Offensively the Eagles never got on track in the final 24 minutes.
Collecting just 37 yards on its first five possessions of the second half, the Eagles had back-to-back possessions that netted minus-six yards before going on the potential game-winning drive. Rutledge went 4-for-4 on the march and positioned the Eagles with a first-and-goal at the Bulldog 5-yard line with 1:08 to go. On the next play Rutledge was injured and Bellbrook was called for holding – its fifth infraction of the second half. On the ensuing play the Eagles fumbled and Wilson fittingly recovered to seal the win.
“Bellbrook returned 10 of 11 starters on offense from last year and they have incredible talent,” Pearce said. “Our defense certainly came up with the big plays at key times.”
Overall the Eagles generated 233 total yards.
The Bulldogs had 263 total yards, with Luckenbill (128 yards on 21 carries) leading the way. Wilson added 94 yards on 17 carries.
Since its 3-6 finish in 2004, Milton has gone 26-4 in the regular season, won two SWBL titles and made three playoff appearances.
“I think football is fun again in Milton,” Pearce said. “We have these kids excited and these kids have a lot of heart. We know that this team is going to fight tooth and nail for every yard and it came down to every inch tonight but that’s thee way championship games should be. We have tough kids and we have ability. We just needed to learn how to win.”
“My freshman year I remember coming in here and getting our butts handed to us,” Wilson said. “We had a lot of those my freshman year though. We’re definitely going to enjoy this victory tonight.”