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Springdale's Dugan quests for winning season at Millersville

Doug Gulasy
| Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017, 10:33 p.m.
Millersville linebacker Sean Dugan (right) watches a play develop during the 2016 season.
Millersville athletics
Millersville linebacker Sean Dugan (right) watches a play develop during the 2016 season.
Millersville linebacker Sean Dugan during a game in the 2016 season.
Photo courtesy Millersville athletics
Millersville linebacker Sean Dugan during a game in the 2016 season.

A September game against Seton Hill turned into one of the most exhausting experiences of Sean Dugan's football career last season.

The heat index soared above 100 degrees at Millersville's Beimesderfer Stadium, draining the players on the field. But although Dugan called it the hottest game of his life, the Springdale graduate wore Seton Hill out more than the temperature with a career-high 19 tackles, including 2 12 for a loss, plus a sack.

“If it's hot for me, I know it's hot for guys that are 100 pounds heavier than me playing offensive line,” Dugan said.

“It was the hottest game of the year. If a play comes to me or I make a play, it's the way it comes out. I'm not counting or anything. It was an exhausting game. It's always a little nicer to do it against Western (Pennsylvania) schools, some schools that didn't exactly recruit me coming out of high school. It's a sweeter feeling.”

Ultimately, Millersville lost that game, and eight more, to suffer its 16th consecutive losing season. And that more than anything is driving Dugan as he prepares for the kickoff of his redshirt senior campaign Saturday at Pace University.

“Individually, I would trade every single tackle I had for a winning season and a (Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference) championship,” Dugan said.

Dugan had 111 of those tackles last season, 46 more than the next-highest member of the team. He added nine tackles for loss, 1 12 sacks and two forced fumbles while playing weakside and middle linebacker in Millersville's 4-3 defense.

“I was lucky enough to have the scheme I was in. I think it fit well with the type of player I am,” Dugan said. “The defensive line made it easy for me, (and so did) the scheme. The coordinators week to week had a great game plan defensively. So it was easy to play with the defense we're in.”

Since redshirting his first season at Millersville, Dugan has become one of the Marauders' most important leaders on and off the field. He started the final five games of the 2014 season as a redshirt freshman before starting all 11 games each of the past two seasons.

Millersville made Dugan one of its alternating captains in 2015. He ascended to full-time captain last season and again will wear the “C” patch this season.

The captaincy took some getting used to: Dugan said he came into college as “the young nervous guy,” and Millersville's coaches “got on me” about becoming more vocal.

That's no longer an issue as Dugan has no problems leading the way for his teammates, whether it's through words or perhaps some extra physicality in practice.

“I think competition brings out the best in everyone,” he said. “If I don't think a guy is doing what he's supposed to be doing, I'll make sure to let him know, whether that's on the field physically or vocally between the whistles. I like letting the offensive line know if I think they're weak that day. Or if the running backs are slow, I'll let them know. I like making challenges, and they challenge me right back. It's fun competition.”

There's a method to Dugan's madness: He wants his teammates to learn hard work and leadership from his example.

“I believe in building as many leaders as possible,” Dugan said. “I don't think there should just be three captains; if you have 11 leaders on offense and 11 leaders on defense, if not more, that's what builds successful teams.”

A psychology major, Dugan plans to graduate in December and potentially could take a graduate assistant position for Alvernia University's fledgling football program; one of his former defensive coordinators coaches there.

Before he does that, he hopes to lead Millersville to its most successful campaign in nearly two decades. The Marauders are 45-129 since their last playoff appearance in 2000, including 20-90 in the past 10 seasons.

“I think a big accomplishment to start would be to get a winning season, and then eventually I'd love to try to win the PSAC East,” said Dugan, who will play middle linebacker full-time this fall in Millersville's adjusted 4-2-5 scheme. “I think that would be a huge accomplishment. That starts with a winning season and goes from there.

“I'm excited to see what the season has in store for us, but I definitely think the team has improved at this point of the year to last year.”

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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