Football: #2 Mount Union Opens 2017 Season Saturday at Home

2017 Mount Union Football team captains - Charlie Dear, Cole Parrish, Michael Vidal, Braeden Friss, Brian Groves
2017 Mount Union Football team captains - Charlie Dear, Cole Parrish, Michael Vidal, Braeden Friss, Brian Groves

#2 Mount Union Purple Raiders vs North Carolina Wesleyan Battling Bishops

The Matchup: No. 2 ranked Mount Union begins its 120th season of football hosting North Carolina Wesleyan Saturday, September 2 at 12:30 p.m. at Mount Union Stadium in Alliance, Ohio.
 
A young Mount Union team gained valuable experience in 2016 with a 12-2 record and a 22nd straight trip to the national semifinals. This season the Raiders will have 52 letterwinners and 14 starters back from that team.
 
N.C. Wesleyan finished 2016 on a two-game win streak and won three of its final four games to go 5-4 overall and place third in the USA South Athletic Conference. The Battling Bishops return seven starters on offense and five on defense this season.
 
Let's Go Streaking: The Purple Raiders have won 29-straight season openers dating back to a 17-15 loss to Wooster in 1987 at Mount Union Stadium.
 
The Series: This is the second meeting between the schools. Mount Union scored a 45-10 win a year ago in the inaugural meeting between the schools and the Raiders first-ever game in the state of North Carolina. Mount Union is 3-0 against current members of the USA South at the Raiders played a home-and-home series with Averett (Va.) in 2006 and 2007.
 
Poll Position: Mount Union has been preseason nationally ranked No. 1 by Street & Smith's and No. 2 by Lindy's and D3Football.com. The Raiders also grabbed the top spot in both the Ohio Athletic Conference coaches and media preseason polls. Defending conference champion John Carroll was second in both polls while Heidelberg and Ohio Northern were No. 3 and No. 4 in the coaches poll and reversed in the media poll. Otterbein rounded out the top five in both polls.
 
Opening Act: Mount Union has its non-conference season opening game scheduled for the next four seasons. The Raiders will begin a home-and-home series with Rose-Hulman (Ind.) when the Engineers visit Alliance in 2018. Mount Union travels to Terre Haute, Indiana, for the return game in 2019. Mount Union then has a home-and-home series with Westminster (Pa.) scheduled for 2020 and 2021.
 
Team Captains: Mount Union has five seniors named team captains in 2017 in linebacker Charlie Dear, wide receiver Braeden Friss, safety Brian Groves, offensive lineman Cole Parrish and defensive lineman Michael Vidal.
 
Headed to the Hall: Former Mount Union head coach and current athletic director Larry Kehres will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame this December in his first year of eligibility. Kehres posted a record of 332-24-3 with 23 OAC titles and 11 national titles coaching the Raiders from 1986-2012.
 
Up Next: Mount Union has a bye next week and returns to the field September 16 with a road trip to Marietta for the Ohio Athletic Conference opener against the Pioneers at 1:30 p.m. at Don Drumm Stadium. The Raiders return home September 23 with a 1:30 p.m. game against Baldwin Wallace which will also be the M Club Hall of Fame game.
 
Making Stops: Eight starters are back on defense led by All-American senior defensive lineman Michael Vidal, who had 12.5 sacks in 2016 and is joined up front by seniors Adam Mihoci and Elijah Berry. The top five tacklers are all back from a year ago headlined by the linebacker duo of senior Charlie Dear and junior Danny Robinson. Robinson had a team-best 99 stops while Dear had 11.5 tackles for loss. Three starters are back in the secondary in senior safety Brian Groves, junior safety Austin White and senior corner Kollyn Crenshaw. Groves was third on the team with 69 tackles and White had a team-best five interceptions.
 
On Offense: Three offensive lineman that started games are back in seniors Cole Parrish, Mike Irizarry and Matt Fitchet while two other senior starters are back in receivers Jared Ruth and Braeden Friss. Three quarterbacks – Dom Davis , Luke Poorman and D'Angelo Fulford – that all started games as freshmen a year ago are all back. Junior Jawanza Evans-Morris is the top returning running back. 
 
Something Special: Evans-Morris and Friss are both back as kick returners along with senior kicker Alex Louthan, junior punter Adam Snyder, senior kickoff specialist Austin Downie and senior snapper Andy Rieman.
 
Scouting the Bishops: North Carolina Wesleyan has been picked to finish third this season in the USA South. All-American receiver Malik Adams is gone but the Bishops return seven starters on offense led by junior quarterback Nate Gardner, who threw for 2,024 yards with 16 touchdowns with 11 inteception a year ago. Gardner's top returning target is junior Trey Lancaster while the top two running backs in junior Adrian Minondo and sophomore Deandre Gillis are also back. On defense, five starters return led by the senior trio of lineman Camara Rawls, linebacker Anthony Janezic and defensive back Jaylon Johnson. Rawls had 5.0 sacks while Janezic and Johnson are the two top returning tacklers.
 
Good Work: Mount Union senior kicker Alex Louthan is one of 146 nominees nationally (22 in NCAA Division III) for the 2017 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team®.
Louthan played in all 14 games in 2016 and made 81 of 82 extra points with 12 field goals including a career long 44-yarder at North Carolina Wesleyan. He matched an NCAA Division III playoff single-game record with 10 extra points at Alfred (N.Y.). Off the field at Mount Union, Louthan has participated in the "Walk a Mile in Her Shoes" activity for domestic violence, "Relay for Life" fundraiser and the "Be the Match" bone marrow drive. Since 1992, the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team® has recognized college football players dedication to volunteerism.