ALLIANCE, Ohio – No. 3 ranked Mount Union ran out to a 56-0 halftime lead and went on to a 70-21 victory over No. 4 ranked Wesley in the semifinals of the NCAA Division III Playoffs Saturday at Mount Union Stadium.
The Purple Raiders (14-0) won their 85th straight home game and advance to the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl – NCAA Division III national title game – for the 18th time overall and 10th year in a row. The Stagg Bowl is next Friday, Dec. 19 at 7 pm in Salem, Virginia, broadcast LIVE on ESPNU. Mount Union has a record 11 NCAA Division III national titles.
Mount Union senior quarterback Kevin Burke (Westlake/Lakewood St. Edward) had a career day in his final home game as he threw seven touchdown passes on 415 yards passing (26-of-41). He had eight total touchdowns as he ran for score on eight rushes for 52 yards as he accounted for 467 of the Raiders 602 yards of offense.
Burke, who won the Gagliardi Trophy – given to NCAA Division III's top all-around player – a year ago, is one of four finalists for the award this year that will be presented Wednesday night in Virginia.
Three Mount Union players – Taurice Scott (Alliance/Alliance), Sherman Wilkinson (Kettering/Fairmont) and Luc Meacham (Toledo/Toledo Central Catholic) – each caught two touchdowns and Tim Kennedy (Hudson/Hudson) had the other. Scott finished with a career-best 10 catches for 160 yards.
Bradley Mitchell (Detroit/South Lake) ran for a touchdown as he had a game-high 93 yards on 12 carries to lead Mount Union on the ground.
Wesley quarterback Joe Callahan – also a Gagliardi Trophy finalist – threw for 440 yards with a touchdown but threw four interceptions as the top ranked Mount Union defense forced six Wolverine turnovers.
Tre Jones (Twinsburg/Twinsburg) had an 85-yard interception return for a touchdown, Will Hiteshue (Medina/Medina) had an interception and a fumble recovery, Cody Pogorelc (St. Petersburg, Fla./St. Petersburg) had an interception while Zach Deerr (Miami, Fla./Felix Varela) had an interception and was the leading tackler along with Jonathan Gonell (Pembroke Pines, Fla./University School) with eight tackles.
After both teams traded punts to start the game, Mount Union scored touchdowns four of its next five first quarter possessions – four touchdown passes from Burke – to take a 28-0 lead. The Raiders defense held Wesley to 53 yards for the quarter.
Mitchell had a one-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second quarter to extend the lead to 35-0. Wesley got the ball into Mount Union territory three times in the quarter and each time ended in a turnover with a fumble and a pair of interceptions – one was Jones' 85-yard return as the Raiders finished the quarter with 28 points and went up 56-0 at the half.
Burke threw two more touchdowns in the third quarter and his final play of the day was a 13-yard scoring pass to Meacham as the Raiders led 70-0 after three quarters.
Wesley tacked on three scores in the fourth quarter for the 70-21 final.