Preseason football: Fairmont Firebirds

Team: Fairmont Firebirds

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

Affiliation: Greater Western Ohio Conference, National East Division.

Location: Foreman Field at Roush Stadium, Kettering.

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Head coach: Dave Miller, entering third season at Fairmont (8-13) after succeeding Andy Aracri. Previously had a record-setting nine-year run at Covington in the Cross County Conference. Also head coach at Twin Valley South in the CCC. Overall career record of 133-49.

Assistant coaches: Pat Roncagli, assistant head coach/DL; Keith Bertram, defensive coordinator/LB; Dave Baker, HB; George Reinke, OL; Jake Feldmeyer, assistant OL; Jeff Schwartz, DB; Vince Godsey, assistant DB; Coleman Ryan, WR; Dalton Bordelon, assistant DL; Brad Probasco, FB.

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Volunteers: Nathan Blei, Darren Cooper, Tom Downs, Shad Earick, Jared Feltner, David Fleming Sr., Josh Fries, Larry Noffsinger, Tom Replogle, Dalton Smith.

2017 records: 1-3 GWOC National East, 7-3 regular season, 7-4 overall.

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2017 highlights: Mounted one of the greatest turnarounds in area history, going from 1-9 in 2016 – Miller's first season – to qualifying for the D-I postseason for only the second time. Needed a 7-3 Week 10 defeat of Springfield to do so, which also knocked the Wildcats out of the postseason.

Jump-started the season with a 13-12 season-opening defeat of non-league nemesis Alter. That snapped the Firebirds' 13-game losing skid to the Knights in what has become a traditional opener for the neighboring rivals.

Joined Wayne and Centerville as GWOC National East teams to reach the playoffs. Lost 49-14 at Hilliard Bradley in a playoff opener.

Key returners:

Trey Baker, 6-0, 220, jr., LB, first team All-GWOC, three-year starter.

Connor Bunts, 6-0, 260, sr., OL, first team All-GWOC, three-year starter.

Jesse Deglow, 5-8, 195, sr., FB, first team All-GWOC, 1000-yard rusher.

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Ryan Hall, 6-4, 185, sr., DB/WR, first team All-GWOC, three-year starter.

Braden Miller, 5-9, 175, sr., QB, second team All-GWOC, three-year letterman.

Patrick Roncagli, 5-8, 250, sr., OL/DL, second team All-GWOC, three-year letterman.

Jonas Smith, 6-0, 200, sr., OLB/DE, three-year starter.

Marqies Williams, 5-9, 165, sr., DB, three-year starter.

About the Firebirds: Loaded with an outstanding – and experienced – senior class, many of who will be three-year starters. Braden Miller, the coach's son, directs a ground-hugging option offense that features Deglow. He rushed a 1,040 yards and had 16 TDs as a junior.

Coming anywhere close to the 4-0 start of 2017 will be key. That starts with the traditional Alter opener, which also kicks off the ABC 22/FOX 45 Thursday Night Lights at 7 p.m. on Aug. 23.

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One major schedule upgrade was made, dropping Hamilton (3-7) of the Greater Miami Conference in Week 2 for host Northmont (8-3) of the GWOC National West. Northmont's high-scoring offense is led by senior QB Miles Johnson. If he sounds familiar, he should. Johnson transferred from Fairmont after his sophomore season. He ranked third in GWOC passing last season with 2,249 yards and 23 TDs.

Former Fairmont head coach Andy Aracri is in his first season as an assistant at the University of Dayton. He previously was a DL coach at Centerville after leaving Fairmont.

Schedule: All at 7 p.m.

Week 1: Thu., Aug. 23 ALTER, ABC 22/FOX 45

Week 2: Fri., Aug. 31 at Northmont

Week 3: Fri., Sept. 7 MILFORD

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Week 4: Fri., Sept. 14 at Springboro

Week 5: Fri., Sept. 21 BEAVERCREEK

Week 6: Fri., Sept. 28 at Miamisburg

Week 7: Fri., Oct. 5 WEST CARROLLTON

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Week 8: Fri., Oct. 12 at Wayne

Week 9: Fri., Oct. 19 CENTERVILLE

Week 10: Fri., Oct. 26 at Springfield

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