Middletown’s Kamari Fuller looks for an open man during their game against Hamilton Friday, Oct. 5 at Virgil M. Schwarm Stadium at Hamilton High School in Hamilton. Hamilton won 15-14. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

High school football Week 1: Boosted numbers raising hopes for Middletown

Don Simpson is excited about his Middletown football team’s prospects this season.

He’s as worked up – if not more – about the Middies’ future.

For the first time in two years, Middletown will field a full freshman football team that will play a nine-game schedule this season.

“The most promising newcomer to our program is our freshmen team,” Simpson said in an email. “For two years, the school has not had a freshmen team, which has effected the growth and development of the program. Hopefully, we can keep our program rolling in the right direction.”

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The second-year coach is hoping that direction is up after the Middies finished 2018 with records of 2-8 overall and 1-7 in the always-rugged Greater Miami Conference. Seven starters return from that team on offense, led by 5-foot-9, 180-pound junior running back Josh Bryant, a first-team all-conference pick after rushing for 1,003 yards. Quarterback Kamari Fuller, a 5-foot-10, 200-pound junior who started five games last season, also returns.

“Josh will lead a very talented offensive unit and may see time on the defensive side of the ball,” Simpson said. “Senior wide receiver Aubraylen Millon and senior defensive back Deyon Brown will both be returning as three-year varsity starters. Million will look to have special year at wide receiver and be a big focus of our offense.”

A big year from the 5-10, 180-pound Millon would help make up for the loss to graduation of first-team all-GMC wide receiver Shandon Morris, who led the GMC with 50 catches, 804 receiving yards and 11 touchdown receptions last season.

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The defense will be centered around 6-4, 205-pound defensive end Cheikh Fall, who’s back for his second year as a starter and already has multiple Division I and II scholarship offers, Simpson said.

“He’s an elected team captain,” Simpson pointed out.

Fall and Brown are two of three returning starters from a defense that lost first-team all-conference defensive back Troy Vinson and second-team linebacker Gene Underhill.

“We’re really excited to see how good our young defense will be,” Simpson said. “We graduated eight starters from our defense last year, but this group of young guys we have out there now seems to be picking up right where the guys last year left off.”

Simpson’s primary concern about his team is depth, he said, but what he really likes about the Middies is their rapid mental progress.

“Our football team’s football IQ has increased dramatically and that all comes from the consistency of our approach and our coaching staff,” he said. “It’s an exciting time for Middletown football.”

Middletown opens the season Friday, Aug. 30, at Cincinnati Western Hills. The home opener is Friday, Sept. 6, against Springboro at Barnitz Stadium.

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