The Melbourne Bulldogs made it to the Class 7A Playoffs in 2019 under head coach Tony Rowell, losing to a very impressive Armwood team that went 12-2 overall. It was a tough loss in an otherwise good season that included a seven-game winning streak early in the season. The season did end with a three-game losing streak, and the team finished with a 7-4 record overall including 3-1 in district play.
The Bulldogs will have a different quarterback this season, with the graduation of Justin Popovich. Popovich threw for 1,067 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. The only other player with significant numbers at quarterback was Kaiden Heaney, who was 4-for-10 for 198 yards and one touchdown.
Heaney was the Bulldogs leading receiver last season with 29 catches for 395 yards and four touchdowns. He is expected back for his senior season. Jalen Clarke had a good season with 11 catches for 248 yards and two touchdowns. John Culver will be another name to watch. He played in one game against Harmony but had three catches for 76 yards.
No matter who is under center in 2020, the receivers will be in place for the Bulldogs to do damage, as you would expect.
The running game will be in good shape as well, with the return of Antonio Wright, who rushed for 1,283 yards on 220 carries and scored 19 touchdowns last season. He averaged 116.6 yards a game and had six 100-yard games. He had 1,648 all-purpose yards, including 291 kick return yards.
Michael Petite had 204 yards on 41 carries, as well as two catches for 109 yards and two touchdowns. He also had 190 kick return yards.
The overall numbers on the Bulldogs in 2019 included 109.9 yards through the air and 148.6 on the ground. They scored 35 touchdowns as a team.
The Melbourne defense was a force in 2019 averaging 55 tackles a game. They had 32 sacks and 15 interceptions. The leading tackler was Dalton Roseman, who has graduated. Luke Green is the top returning tackler with 96, including 53 solo tackles. Gavin Rowell (59 tackles and 11 sacks), Marqueil Ford-Watson (56 tackles and 10 sacks), and Jafari Clarke (52 tackles) are all underclassmen and will all see those numbers rise this season.
Jackson Fain will likely return for kicking duties. He was 26-for-30 on extra points and hit a 28-yard field goal.
The schedule is in the early stages at this point. The Bulldogs will play Harmony at home on September 11. They will play road games against St. Cloud, Viera, and Eau Gallie.