By Josh Brown
WEST MILTON — It wasn’t that Milton-Union could do no wrong Friday.
But when the Bulldogs did make mistakes, they made up for them in other ways.
A Nathan Brumbaugh interception on fourth down on the Milton-Union 1-yard line turned into a 97-yard touchdown run by Robbie Grove two plays later, setting the tone for what would be a blowout as the Bulldogs obliterated Dixie 61-0 on Senior Night Friday at Memorial Stadium.
“I think we’ve been getting better every week,” Milton-Union coach Bret Pearce said. “I think this is what a good football team is supposed to do when you come up against one that is struggling. We were able to take advantage of their mistakes. We’ve got some great kids, and it was great to send the seniors out on Senior Night that way.”
With the win, Milton-Union improved to 5-4 overall and 4-1 Southwestern Buckeye League Buckeye Division, remaining in the running for a division title. To get a share of the title, the Bulldogs would need to win in Week 10 at winless Carlisle but also have Waynesville upset an undefeated 9-0 Madison team. Dixie, meanwhile, fell to 1-8 and 1-5 in the SWBL Buckeye.
Milton-Union was also penalized for more than 50 yards in the first half, but even that couldn’t slow down the Bulldogs as they did not fail to put the ball in the end zone on a single drive in the first half, going a perfect 7 for 7 to take a 49-0 lead by halftime and never looked back.
And the Bulldogs’ defensive performance was just as impressive. Dixie connected on a couple of big plays — including a 71-yard pass on the first play from scrimmage in the game. But the Milton ‘D’ never let those amount to anything, forcing two turnovers — one early interceptions and one on a fumble late in the second half and posting two goal-line stops in the first half. It was Milton-Union’s first shutout since Sept. 16, 2016, a 35-0 victory over Northridge.
After that 71-yard hookup on the game’s opening possession gave Dixie first-and-goal at the Milton 9, the Bulldogs didn’t let the Greyhounds get past the 5 — and on fourth-and-goal from the 5, Brumbaugh intercepted a pass on the 1-yard line instead of knocking the ball down. But even with their backs pushed against the wall, the Bulldogs pushed back harder as Grove took a pitch around the left side, evaded a handful of would-be tacklers and then raced down the sideline for a 97-yard touchdown to put Milton-Union up 7-0 with 9:34 left in the opening quarter.
“When Robbie hits the corner, there aren’t many kids in the league that are going to catch him,” Pearce said of Grove.”
The Bulldogs then forced Dixie to punt, and A.J. Lovin took the punt return back 64 yards for another touchdown to give Milton-Union a 14-0 lead with 7:59 on the clock. And after another goal-line stand by the defense, the Bulldogs marched 92 yards on only nine plays, with a 49-yard pass from William Morris to Lovin making up most of that ground. Morris then scored on a 9-yard keeper with 35.6 seconds left in the quarter to put Milton up 21-0.
“A.J. is another great kid and amazing athlete who had been doing some great things for us,” Pearce said. “And really, I think the team smelled blood in the water. Once we got a couple quick scores, I think the entire team felt that momentum and just went after them.”
Then it was Jake Swafford’s turn. After the defense forced a three-and-out, Milton took over on its own 43 and Swafford scored on the first play of the drive, lowering his shoulder and bulldozing over a Dixie defender at the line of scrimmage and seeing nothing but open field from there on a 57-yard touchdown to make it 28-0 with 11:31 until halftime.
“Jake’s been doing that all year for us,” Pearce said. “He may not have had touchdown runs of that length all year, but he is just such a hard-nosed kid, and he’s really shifty in the middle. He’s done that more than once.”
Another three-and-out turned into a fast drive as Dixie’s punt went straight up in the air, allowing the Bulldogs to take over at their own 31. Three plays later, Morris hit Austin Brandon with an 8-yard touchdown pass, and Milton-Union led 35-0 with 9:39 remaining until the break.
There would be no break for Dixie, though, as the rain began to pour late in the first half and the Greyhound offense simply could not move the football. Morris added a 37-yard touchdown run with 5:32 left in the half, then Dylan Schenck scored on a 3-yard run with 1:46 on the clock, and the Bulldogs led 49-0 at halftime.
“It was nice to get a couple seniors who don’t normally get the limelight into the end zone,” Pearce said.
Matt Pickrell added a 25-yard run in the second half — a half that was played under a running clock — and one more Bulldog touchdown early in the fourth quarter capped off the scoring.
Milton-Union entered the night in 14th in the Division V, Region 18 playoff standings, needing to climb all the way up to eighth to get in.
The Bulldogs will face 0-9 Carlisle on the road to finish the regular season in Week 10.
“If we take care of business next week, we’ll finish second in the league,” Pearce said. “That’s certainly a great accomplishment for these kids, considering how new many of them were. We did not return very much experience, so staring at second in the league is really an accomplishment.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.