Preseason football: Eaton Eagles

Eaton senior running back Caleb Puckett has led the Eagles in rushing the last two seasons. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE REGISTER-HERALD
Eaton senior running back Caleb Puckett has led the Eagles in rushing the last two seasons. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE REGISTER-HERALD

Team: Eaton Eagles

Division/Region: D-IV, Region 16; no change from last season.

Affiliation: Southwestern Buckeye League, Southwestern Division.

Location: Eaton Athletic & Wellness Stadium (Preble County).

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Head coach: Brad Davis, entering his fourth season as Eaton's head coach; 7-23 overall combined record.

Assistant coaches: Clint Buffenbarger, RB; Austin Fudge, WR/DB; Nathan Islamovsky, OL; Tommy Jones, QB; Chad Lee, LB; Sam Watson, OL/OC.

2017 records: 1-5 SWBL Southwestern; 3-7 overall.

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2017 highlights: Eaton opened with a 24-19 win at Greenville and was 2-1 following a 22-7 Week 3 defeat of Oxford Talawanda. Then SWBL play kicked in.

The Eagles will lug a four-game losing skid into 2018, which included identical 28-20 Weeks 8-9 losses at Brookville and Carlisle.

Graduated senior DB Aaron Tolliver was first team All-Southwest District and All-SWBL Southwestern.

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Key returners:

Jarod Lee, 5-11, 175, jr., LB/TE; second team All-SWBL

Gabe Mirovsky, 5-8, 160, so., DB/RB

Caleb Puckett, 5-10, 190, sr., RB/DB; 736 yards rushing.

Zac Schmidt, 5-10, 170, jr., DB/WR; second team All-SWBL

Ryan Venable, 5-8, 160, sr., QB/DB

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About the Eagles: Returning to regular SWBL title contention and making a postseason push is the goal. Six of Eaton's seven playoff teams were from 2000-10. Those were the glory years, because the Eagles haven't fielded a winning team since the 2013 squad went 7-3 and was knocked out of playoff contention following late losses to Franklin and Valley View.

Puckett has led Eaton in rushing each of the last two seasons. He’s amassed 1,604 yards rushing and nine TDs for his career after going for 736 yards last season.

Venable (791 yards passing, 3 TDs) is a returning starter at QB and will be counted on to lead the offense. He’ll benefit from former Eaton standout Tommy Jones as the QB coach.

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Schmidt is another proven offensive factor after leading the team with 28 catches for 364 yards (13.0) as a sophomore.

There is one late-season schedule change. A four-year SWBL crossover series with Carlisle has ended. The Indians swept the last three games. Dixie bumps Carlisle and will visit in Week 10. Eaton hasn’t played Dixie since a 34-0 blanking of the Greyhounds in Week 3 of 2004.

Fun fact: Jack Harbaugh, father of coaches Jim (Michigan) and John (Ravens) Harbaugh, was Eaton's head football coach in 1964-65.

Playing at cozy Park Avenue stadium in Eaton, his two Eagles teams were 5-4-1 and 6-4, but they left an impression. “We moved 17 different times,” Harbaugh told the Richmond Palladium prior to a 50-year Eagles reunion in 2014. “Eaton is one of our all-time favorite stops.”

He likely views a one-season stay at Xenia the next year just as memorable. In 1966 the Bucs were 8-1-1 as a Western Ohio League member. The eight-team league had formed two years prior and added Fairborn Baker and Troy in 1968.

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Schedule: All at 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted.

Week 1: Fri., Aug. 24 GREENVILLE

Week 2: Fri., Aug. 31 at St. Henry, 7:30 p.m.

Week 3: Fri., Sept. 7 at Talawanda

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Week 4: Fri., Sept. 14 BROOKVILLE

Week 5: Fri., Sept. 21 at Oakwood

Week 6: Fri., Sept. 28 at Monroe

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Week 7: Fri., Oct. 5 BELLBROOK

Week 8: Fri., Oct. 12 FRANKLIN

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Week 9: Fri., Oct. 19 at Valley View

Week 10: Fri., Oct. 26 DIXIE

Team: Centerville Elks

Division/Region: D-I, Region 3; no change from last season.

Affiliation: Greater Western Ohio Conference, National East Division.

Location: Elks Football Stadium, Centerville (Montgomery County).

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Head coach: Brent Ullery, second season as the Elks head coach following three years as an assistant. A former Centerville football standout who walked on as a receiver at Ohio State. Son of former Elks head coach and current Springboro assistant Ron Ullery.

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Assistant coaches: Joe Kitchell, defensive coordinator/LB; Greg Karpinsky, DL; Adam Taylor, DL; Cedric Tolbert, safeties; Ryan Thomas, safeties; Roy Thobe, corners; Dan Kerns, WR; Jermaine Bailey, RB; Bill Petraiuolo, OL; Luke Bartlett, QB.

2017 records: 4-0 GWOC National East; 10-2 overall.

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2017 highlights: A spectacular debut for Ullery, who succeeded Rodney Roberts. Elks were 7-0 and lost only at Northmont 21-14 in Week 8 of the regular season. Defeated Fairmont and Beavercreek in Weeks 9-10 to go unbeaten in divisional play and end Wayne's two-season grip on the conference title.

Top seeded, opened the playoffs with a 35-0 thumping of Hilliard Darby. That set up a rematch with Week 3 opponent Pickerington North. Centerville won the regular-season matchup 27-26 on Brandon Walter’s 24-yard FG with no time left. But North landed a 42-12 payback KO of the Elks in the postseason.

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That was Centerville’s 16th appearance in the playoffs, second only to Wayne (20) among the area’s D-I programs.

Graduated seniors Alec Grandin and Jake Spiewak both were second team All-Ohio. A QB, Grandin was second in GWOC passing (2,483 yards and 25 TDs). His go-to target was Spiewak, a sure-handed 6-4 WR who torched Fairmont with 13 catches for 160 yards in Week 9. He had 66 catches and 1,011 yards (15.3) and 10 TDs. Grandin will play football at Marian University (Ind.) and Spiewak will play at Air Force.

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They were part of a robust senior class that intends to play ball at the next level. Also extending their football careers are graduated seniors Ross Garrett (Saginaw Valley State), Dylan Haller (Indiana State), Jevon Henderson (Bowling Green), Trey King (Duquesne), Riley Poulton (Columbia), Donovan Shelton (Indiana Wesleyan), Cody Smith (Baldwin Wallace) and Sam Vance (Air Force).

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Key returners:

Jake Appley, 6-0, 235, sr., OL

Dylan Hiltbrunner, 5-11, 190, sr., LB

J.R. Melzer, 6-0, 180, sr., WR/DB

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Chris Moody, 6-0, 285, sr., DL

Brandon Walters, 6-0, 170, sr., WR/K; first team All-GWOC East kicker.

Max Wynn, 6-2, 205, sr., LB; first team All-GWOC East LB.

About the Elks: Lots of senior turnover from last season, which means the Elks likely will be hard-pressed to contend for a GWOC title and another playoff berth. Wynn led the Elks with 96 total tackles (58 solo, 38 assists) and four forced fumbles. Hiltbrunner had 54 stops (32 solos, 22 assists). They'll provide a familiar defensive punch. That's a good thing, because the offense is in rebuild mode.

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Ullery’s debut season was similar to Roberts’ in 2014 (10-1), which also benefited from a proven and big senior class.

As of now, Centerville doesn’t have a road game until Week 5 at Springboro. That’s because Centerville has been unable to land a Week 3 opponent after ending a two-year series with Pickerington North. The rest of the Elks schedule is the same as 2017. That won’t hurt the Elks’ playoff shot; an additional computer rankings numerical formula kicks in so teams aren’t penalized for open dates.

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Look for Trotwood-Madison to eventually return to the schedule. Centerville swept Trotwood in a Week 4 home-and-home series in 2014-15. Besides, Trotwood is the only GWOC American Conference team that won’t jump to the revised Miami Valley League in 2019.

Schedule: All at 7 p.m.

Week 1: Fri., Aug. 24 FAIRFIELD

Week 2: Fri., Aug. 31 LAKOTA WEST

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Week 3: Fri., Sept. 7 Open

Week 4: Fri., Sept. 14 SPRINGFIELD

Week 5: Fri., Sept. 21 at Springboro

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Week 6: Fri., Sept. 28 WAYNE

Week 7: Fri., Oct. 5 at Lebanon

Week 8: Fri., Oct. 12 NORTHMONT

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Week 9: Fri., Oct. 19 at Fairmont

Week 10: Fri., Oct. 26 at Beavercreek