ALLIANCE: Mount Union appears to be properly motivated for a playoff run this year.
All the purple-clad rooters were loving it during a record-setting effort in a Division III opening-round game Saturday. The Mount Union Stadium scoreboard nearly blew a fuse keeping up with the fun as the home team rolled over Christopher Newport (Va.) University 72-14.
It was the highest point total for the Purple Raiders in their storied playoff history, and only three points shy of their high mark in a regular-season game.
“We started fast,” Mount Union coach Larry Kehres said. “Had some big plays in the first quarter to jump out to the lead, and continued on at that pace.”
No. 1-ranked Mount Union (11-0) will face Johns Hopkins (Md.) University — a 42-10 winner over Washington & Jefferson — at noon Saturday in the second round. It will likely be at Mount Union again; the site will be announced today.
Mount Union has won a record 10 championships, but has lost to Wisconsin-Whitewater in the final the past three years. Those two teams have met in the title game seven years in a row. It will not happen again this season, though, even if the Purple Raiders make it that far. Whitewater, which suffered three losses, did not make the playoffs.
“When you don’t win in three years there’s more pressure on you,” said senior linebacker Charles Dieuseul. “But coach Kehres keeps us pretty level. We gotta go out there and play our game, work on the fundamentals every day in practice.”
The Raiders were ahead 14-0 barely five minutes into the game, and led 28-7 after one quarter. It was 49-7 at the half, and Mount Union built the lead after that, with virtually all the starters watching from the sideline the entire second half.
Sophomore Kevin Burke only needed one half to pass for 264 yards and three touchdowns, two to Jasper Collins and one to Julius Moore. Senior T.J. Lattimore opened the scoring with a 10-yard run, adding another later from 16 yards out. Senior Chris Denton made it 14-0 with an 80-yard punt return, his fifth for a touchdown this season, which tied a Division III record.
“Usually, the coach tells me which way to run,” Denton said. “As soon as I catch the ball, I know which way I’m going. So I try to set them up. I fake one way and I just sprint to the outside. I give it all to the unit. They’re blocking their butts off.”
Mount Union amassed 641 total yards, with a near-even split between rushing (326) and passing (315) and limited the visiting Captains to just 102 yards.
Christopher Newport (6-5), which qualified for the playoffs by winning the USA South Conference, threatened to make a game of it briefly late in the first quarter.
Trailing 21-0, sophomore quarterback Marcus Morrast found Zack Stevens for a 17-yard touchdown with 1:31 left.
The Captains then appeared to recover an onside kick near midfield. But it was nullified by an offside penalty. And as Christopher Newport coach Matt Kelchner said, “it went downhill from there.”
Blair Skilliter, Drew Prendergast and Mason Minnich all added rushing touchdowns for the Raiders in the second half.