Football: #1 Mount Union Hosts #10 Wittenberg Saturday; Two Winningest Programs in NCAA Division III History Meet in Second Round Playoff Game

Sherman Wilkinson (Photo by JT Higgins)
Sherman Wilkinson (Photo by JT Higgins)

2013 Mount Union Football - NCAA Second Round
#1 University of Mount Union Purple Raiders (11-0)
vs #10/12 Wittenberg University Tigers (10-1)
Saturday, November 30 - 12 pm - Mount Union Stadium (Alliance, Ohio)

Joe Tait (play-by-play), Harry Paidas (color), Jim Ballard (analyst)
WIVM Ch. 39 (Tape Delay - Nov. 30 - 8 pm, Dec. 1 - 1 pm)
SportsTime Ohio (Tape Delay - Nov. 30 - 10 pm, Dec. 2 - 12 pm)

WDPN 1310 AM (Alliance) | LISTEN LIVE
91.1 FM (Alliance) | LISTEN LIVE




The two winningest programs in NCAA Division III meet when No. 1 ranked University of Mount Union hosts No. 10 ranked Wittenberg University in the second round of the 2013 NCAA Division III Football Playoffs Saturday, Nov. 30 at noon at Mount Union Stadium in Alliance.

Both programs are two of only 21 in the history of college football to win over 700 games as Wittenberg is at 727 and Mount Union is at 725.

Mount Union earned an automatic bid into the 32-team tournament by winning its 22nd straight Ohio Athletic Conference title and has a 79-13 record in the NCAA Playoffs. Mount Union has advanced to the Stagg Bowl (National Championship game) 16 times and have won a record 11 National Championships. The Raiders extended the nation's longest winning streak to 26 games with a 34-20 first round win over Washington & Jefferson (Pa.).

After a season opening loss to NCAA Division I Butler, Wittenberg has won 10-straight games and in the tournament after winning the North Coast Athletic Conference title. The Tigers, members of the OAC from 1935-1988 with 15 conference titles, are making their 16th NCAA Playoff appearance with a 21-13 record in tournament games. The Tigers won the inaugural NCAA Division III Tournament in 1973, added a second title in 1975 and finished as national runner-up in 1978 and 1979.


All Mount Union football games are broadcast on the radio on WDPN 1310 AM and WRMU 91.1 FM and simulcast online along with a LIVE STATS game tracker. You can also hear the WRMU 91.1 FM feed on any phone by calling (330) 445-7900.

The game will be shown on television via tape delay on regional sports cable channel FSN SportsTime Ohio and WIVM TV39 (Stark County), WIVN TV29 (New Philadelphia), Time Warner Cable (ch. 989-Stark County, ch. 99-Tuscarawas County), Massillion Cable (ch. 21) and Clear Picture Cable (ch. 21-Wayne County). Image Video produces the broadcasts with Harry Paidas along with hall of fame broadcaster Joe Tait and college football hall of famer Jim Ballard. Tait spent 39 years as the radio voice of the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers and his now 27 years of doing Mount Union football on radio and television while Ballard was the the quarterback of the Purple Raiders' first national championship team in 1993.


Vince Kehres (Mount Union '98)

is 11-0 in his in first season as head coach at Mount Union. Kehres played for the Purple Raiders and has spent the last 13 years on the coaching staff including the last eight as defensive coordinator before taking over for his father Larry Kehres this past May. As either a player or coach Kehres has been a part of 10 of the Purple Raiders' 11 national championships. He is the second coach in school history to go 10-0 and win an OAC title in his first season as head coach joining his father Larry Kehres. He was also named OAC Coach of the Year this week.

Joe Fincham (Ohio '88)

is 164-36 (.820) in his 18th season as head coach at Wittenberg. Fincham is the winningest coach in school histoty as his teams have won 10 North Coast Athletic Conference titles and he has been named NCAC Coach of the Year eight times including this year. He spent six seasons as an assistant coach at Wittenberg before taking over as head coach in 1996. He played college football at Ohio and served as a graduate assistant football coach for the Bobcats and was also the offensive coordinator at Urbana for one season.


This game will be the 29th meeting between the teams with Wittenberg holding an 18-10 lead in a series that dates back to 1916. The Purple Raiders have won seven of the last eight meetings including the last time the teams played in a 2001 NCAA Quarterfinal game that Mount Union won 49-21 in Alliance.


The winner of this game plays the winner of the Ithaca/Wesley game next Saturday.


Wittenberg is a veteran, experienced team as the Tigers have 17 seniors that as a class has a 38-6 record with three NCAA Playoff appearances. Wittenberg has the nation's No. 4 total offense and leads the nation in first downs (298) while the defense is ranked No. 22 in the nation with 31 sacks and 11 interceptions.

The offense runs through the nation's No. 2 rated passer and NCAC Player of the Year in senior quarterback Reed Florence. Florence has competed 67-percent of his passes (193-of-285) for 3,039 yards and he is second in the nation with 36 touchdown passes. He has also rushed for nine touchdowns and leads the nation in points responsible for by a single player (25.1 points per game). Senior wide receivers Brendan Cunningham (54 catches, 1,021 yards and 11 TD's) and Desi Kirman (12 TD's) are his top targets while the top rusher is sophomore Sean Gary with 153 rushes for 842 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Four seniors lead the defense in linebacker Spencer Leno, defensive back Victor Banjo and linemen Kyle Sanning and Evan Killilea. Leno, a Massillon Washington HS grad, leads the team with 104 tackles, Banjo has a team-best three interceptions while Sanning and Killilea each have 10 tackles for loss with 6.0 and 5.0 sacks respectively.


For the 9th year the NCAA Division III Football Championship consists of a 32-team field. For perspective, in Mount Union's first appearance in the playoffs in 1985, the field was 16 teams. This year's field breaks down like this: Automatic bids will be given to 24 conference champions, three spots are for teams that are independents or in conferences not granted automatic bids and the final five spots are national at-large bids. Each team is allowed to only dress a total of 58 players for a playoff game.


Mount Union is second in the nation in total offense (539 yards per game) and is fourth in the nation in scoring (47.9 points per game). The Raiders are also the best team in nation on third down with a 61.4-percent conversion rate. On defense, Mount Union is fourth in the nation in total defense (232.7 yards per game) and is fourth in the nation in rushing defense (69.9 rushing yards allowed per game).


Vince Kehres was named OAC Coach of the Year after leading the Raiders to a 10-0 regular season and conference title in his first season. Kehres is the third Mount Union coach (Larry Kehres and Ken Wable) to win the award since it began in 1968. His father, Larry Kehres, won the award a record six times including his first season in 1986.

Geoff Dartt was named OAC Assistant Coach of the Year as he is in charge of an offense that finished the regular season as the nation's No. 2 rated total offense after starting the season with 10 new starters. He is the fourth Mount Union assistant coach to win the award since it started in 2001, joining Vince Kehres in 2006, Jeff Wojotwicz in 2004 and Don Montgomery in 2001.

Senior Matt Fechko (Twinsburg/Twinsburg) won the Paul Hoernemann Award as the conference's top defensive lineman. It is the fifth time in seven years that a Purple Raider has won the award as Fechko is a team captain that has started all 11 games with 31 tackles and 5.5 tackles for loss this season. He is a three-time All-OAC First Team selection that earned All-American honors a year ago.

Fifteen Raiders earned All-OAC honors as along with Fechko on the first team was Jack Nicholls (Galion/Galion), Kevin Burke, Luc Meacham (Toledo/Toledo Central Catholic)Jonathan Gonell (Pembroke Pines, Fla./University School, Fla.), Tre Jones (Twinsburg/Twinsburg), Alex Kocheff (Chagrin Falls/Kenston) and Tom Lally (Fairview Park/Lakewood St. Edward).


Mount Union freshman running back Bradley Mitchell (St. Clair Shores, Mich./South Lake) and senior wide receiver Sherman Wilkinson (Kettering/Fairmont) each had career days last week. Mitchell had career-best 31 carries for 181 yards against W&J in making his fifth straight start. He has had five 100-yard rushing performance of the season -- 105 yards against Wilmington, 157 yards at Heidelberg and versus John Carroll with 114 against Baldwin Wallace. Wilkinson had career-highs 130 receiving yards and three touchdowns against W&J. It was his first 100-yard game of his career.


Junior quarterback Kevin Burke (Westlake/Lakewood St. Edward) enters this week as the nation's No. 3 rated passer and after tossing four touchdown passes last week against W&J is third in the nation with 35 touchdown passes on the season. Burke passed a milestone last week going over 8,000 yards of total offense (rushing + passing yards) and is fifth all-time at Mount Union with 8,238 yards (6,590 passing, 1,648 rushing). He passed the 8,074 (all rushing yards) by Nate Kmic (2005-08) and is behind the fourth place total of Greg Micheli (2005-08) with 9,955 yards (8,479 passing, 1,476 rushing).


Wide receiver Pierre Garcon, a sixth round draft pick of the Indianapolis Colts in 2008, is in his second season with Washington had 48 receiving yards in a 27-6 loss to San Francisco. Cecil Shorts III, a fourth round pick in by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2011, had 71 receiving yards in a 13-6 win at Houston. Kyle Miller made his NFL debut as a TE for the Indianapolis Colts in 2012, was waived then signed by the Miami Dolphins where he is on the practice squad with another former Raider in wide receiver Jasper Collins. Two Raiders in the NFL coaching ranks are Dom Capers, defensive coordinator of Green Bay Packers and Nick Sirianni is the offense quality control coach witht the San Diego Chargers.