By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
CASSTOWN — Milton-Union coach Bret Pearce has seen glimmers of what A.J. Lovin can do the past couple of years.
Friday night, he turned the Bulldog senior loose.
Lovin scored all six of Milton-Union’s touchdowns — four rushing and two receiving — was in on two of the Bulldogs’ four successful two-point conversion tries and kicked an extra point, setting a new single-game school scoring record and leading Milton-Union to a 46-15 victory over Miami East on the road to kick off the new season.
Lovin had more than 200 all-purpose yards in the game, rushing for 186 yards on only nine carries, adding 18 receiving yards on two catches, both for touchdowns, and piling up plenty more in the kick return game, too.
“He had six touchdowns, two of our two-point conversions and also kicked an extra point, so he set a school record tonight for points scored in one game,” Pearce said. “He’s shown flashes in the past and did some really nice things. But he really kind of broke out of his shell tonight. And he’s definitely going to be a force the rest of the season.”
For Milton-Union (1-0), it was also a measure of payback after Miami East (0-1) won big, 47-10 in a running clock game in last year’s season opener at Milton-Union.
“Last year left a bad taste in our mouth,” Pearce said. “This one’s been the one that’s motivated us all offseason, all summer, all of two-a-days, and our kids really came out with a focus tonight.”
It only took the Bulldogs four plays to show that focus, too, as Lovin slipped out of a tackle around the left side and broke a 48-yard touchdown run, then quarterback Nathan Brumbaugh hit Kayge Thwaits with a quick two-point conversion pass to give Milton-Union an 8-0 lead with 10:17 still left in the first quarter.
The Vikings drove to the Bulldog 36-yard line, but Peyton Brown cut that drive short when he snagged the first of his two interceptions and took it back to the East 44. Eight plays later, Lovin strolled in from 8 yards out, followed by a Brumbaugh-to-Andrew Lambert two-point conversion to make it 16-0 with 3:31 left.
But Milton wasn’t done in the opening quarter, either. The Bulldogs recovered a surprise onside kick at their own 46, then Thwaits hit Brown on a halfback pass for 43 yards to put Milton-Union right back within striking distance of the goal line. Four plays later, Brumbaugh hit Lovin on an 8-yard touchdown pass then hit him again for the two-point conversion to make the score 24-0 Bulldogs at the end of the first quarter.
“We got a little shell-shocked early,” Miami East coach Max Current said. “And our inexperience showed there early in the game. We didn’t handle adversity very well at the start, especially on defense. We’d have a couple of plays where we looked good and boom, they’d hit us with a nice gain. We’re not consistent at all yet on defense.”
And that shell-shocked feeling the Vikings had was definitely the Bulldogs’ aim.
“Going for two was just a strategy for us — to maybe keep them back on their heels a bit and keep our kids aggressive,” Pearce said.
Miami East finally got going to start the second quarter, though, going on an 11-play, 68-yard drive, one capped off on a 2-yard run by Connor Dalton to cut the lead to 24-7 with 9:11 before halftime.
After a Viking punt pinned the Bulldogs at their own 10-yard line, though, they set off on a 16-play, 90-yard touchdown march. Brumbaugh hit Lovin with a 10-yard jump ball in the back of the end zone, then Lovin ran in a direct snap for the two-point try to push the halftime lead to 32-7 Bulldogs.
In the second half, the Bulldog defense forced a turnover on downs on the opening possession, then Lovin took a counter to the left and broke a 37-yard touchdown run, making the score 39-7 after the point-after and turning on the running clock, per the OHSAA’s mercy rule.
Brown picked off a second pass on the ensuing drive, and Lovin made sure the running clock would not be turned off, breaking a 71-yard touchdown for his final score of the night to give the Bulldogs a 46-7 lead. The Vikings answered with a 15-play, 66-yard drive, capped off on a 1-yard quarterback keeper by Tyler Kirby, then Kirby hit Nick LeValley for a successful two-point try — but the gap was still 31 points at 46-15, and the Bulldogs closed out the game from there.
Landon Rich led the Vikings with 139 yards on 27 carries, LeValley added 58 yards and Austin Francis had 30 yards, but they simply couldn’t keep up with the Bulldog onslaught.
“We had a couple of nice drives,” Current said. “We stalled on out one of them, but we showed some promise. Landon ran hard, all three of our backs ran hard. We’ve just got to keep working and getting better.”
“We can’t dwell on this game. This game does not decide our season. We’ve got to worry about Sidney Lehman next.”
Miami East sets out on the road to Lehman in Week 2, while Milton-Union remains on the road and travels to Oakwood.
Contact Troy Daily News Sports Editor Josh Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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