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Preseason football: Urbana Hillclimbers

Team: Urbana Hillclimbers

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

Affiliation: Central Buckeye Conference, Mad River Division.

Location: Hillclimbers Stadium, Urbana (Champaign County).

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Head coach: Carleton Cotner, entering his second season with the Hillclimbers after succeeding Jon Daniels. Moved over as an assistant from CBC rival Bellefontaine. Also, the head coach at CBC member Benjamin Logan (2007-13) and before that at Fairbanks. In addition, spent 10 years as a college assistant.

Assistant coaches: O.J. Sancho, OC; Frank Stid, DC; Kris Doggett, OLB/special teams; Richard Oakes, OL; Kai Scott, DB; Mychal Cox, DL; Mike Mays, LB; Rod Wilson, RB; Gunner Lanning, OL.

2017 records: 3-1 CBC Mad River; 4-6 overall.

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2017 highlights: Rebounded from consecutive 2-8 seasons in 2015-16. Urbana pushed CBC Mad River champion Indian Lake to the limit in a 20-13 Week 8 loss. That prevented the Hillclimbers from winning out in their last four games. Still, that was a significant improvement following a 1-5 start and provides momentum heading into this season.

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Key returners:

Nic Dorsey, 5-11, 175, sr., RB; first team All-CBC; 1,084 yards rushing and 12 TDs.

Max Niswonger, 6-0, 188, sr., RB/DB; first team All-CBC.

Noah Robinson, 6-0, 240, sr., OL.

Dalton Sexton, 6-4, 235, sr., OL.

Preston Shields, 6-1, 235, sr., QB; first team All-CBC.

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About the Hillclimbers: “We have a strong senior class that is hungry to put Urbana Football back on the map and return us to our championship ways. We have to overcome the death of our longtime offensive coordinator Bill “Skeeter” Moss. Our kids adored him and to the coaches he was a great friend. He leaves a huge void both personally and professionally for this program.” – Cotner.

Moss, an Urbana grad and longtime football assistant and girls basketball head coach, suffered a fatal heart attack last December.

Dorsey and Shields (436 yards passing and 7 TDs; 687 yards rushing and 9 TDs) are proven in the backfield. Niswonger had 40 solo tackles as a junior.

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There are two schedule upgrades. Stebbins (1-9) and Greenville (2-8) of the Greater Western Ohio Conference have been replaced by visiting Meadowdale (4-6) of the Dayton City League in Week 2 and a CBC crossover trip at Bellefontaine (10-2) in Week 3. The Stebbins series was a leftover matchup from its time in the CBC.

An established CBC football power, Urbana has won 21 conference or divisional titles since 1976. Its most recent championship was the 7-3 team in 2014.

Fun facts: Lots of outstanding players excelled at Urbana over the years, none more renowned as the Rogan brothers. Jeff Rogan (1979-82) still ranks among the state’s all-time leading career rushers (5,985 yards). His brother Greg Rogan (1980-83) would have had similar stats had he not shared the backfield with Jeff.

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Urbana was a combined 51-4-1 in that five-year span, all under head coach Ray DeCola. That included a 12-1 season in 1983, which ended with a 14-9 loss to Elyria Catholic in the D-III (of five divisions) state championship at Ohio Stadium in a showdown of unbeatens. Greg Rogan was the go-to senior on that team following Jeff’s graduation the year before. Greg would find a home at Ohio Stadium, becoming a fixture in Ohio State’s defensive backfield.

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Younger but bigger brother Patrick Rogan (1984-87) signed as a linebacker at OSU. According to Dayton Daily News archives, the three brothers combined for 12,489 career rushing yards and 1,348 points during their time as Hillclimbers. Beat that.

• Urbana was unbeaten in 1976 (10-0), ’77 (10-0) and ’79 (9-0-1) but couldn’t qualify for the postseason. That was the infancy of Ohio’s playoffs, which started in 1972. It took just two wins to capture a state title in that era and was limited to Class AAA, AA and A.

Schedule: All at 7 p.m.

Week 1: Fri., Aug. 24 at London

Week 2: Fri., Aug. 31 MEADOWDALE

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Week 3: Fri., Sept. 7 at Bellefontaine, ChampaignSportsAuthority.com

Week 4: Fri., Sept. 14 at Kenton Ridge

Week 5: Fri., Sept. 21 TECUMSEH, ChampaignSportsAuthority.com

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Week 6: Fri., Sept. 28 at Northwestern

Week 7: Fri., Oct. 5 SPRINGFIELD SHAWNEE

Week 8: Fri., Oct. 12 at Graham, ChampaignSportsAuthority.com

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Week 9: Fri., Oct. 19 INDIAN LAKE

Week 10: Fri., Oct. 26 BENJAMIN LOGAN

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