Football: #1 Mount Union Takes on Centre in NCAA Second Round

Trey Williams (Photo by Steven Kachilla)
Trey Williams (Photo by Steven Kachilla)

NCAA Second Round
#1 Mount Union Purple Raiders
vs Centre Colonels

The Matchup: No. 1 ranked University of Mount Union hosts Centre (Ky.) College in the second round of the 2018 NCAA Division III Football Playoffs Saturday, Nov. 24 at 12 pm at Mount Union Stadium.
 
The Purple Raiders are 11-0 overall, defeated Denison 60-0 in the first round to extend the nation's longest active win streak to 26 games. Mount Union won its 29th Ohio Athletic Conference title to claim one of 26 automatic bids to the tournament and has a 100-16 record in NCAA Playoff games. The Raiders are in the tournament for the 27th year in a row, 30th overall and have advanced to the Stagg Bowl 20 times since 1993 with a record 13 National Championships. 
 
Centre, located in Danville, Kentucky, is 10-1 overall, defeated No. 14 ranked Washington & Jefferson (Pa.) 54-13 in the first round and is making its third-ever NCAA Playoff appearance. The Colonels are one of five at-large teams selected to the tournament after placing second in the Southern Athletic Association and have a 2-2 record in playoff games with their other appearances in 2011 and 2014.
 
Series History: This is the second-ever meeting between the teams as they played a 2011 NCAA Playoff second round game with the Raiders winning 30-10 at Mount Union.  
 
In that 2011 game, Mount Union quarterback Matt Piloto threw touchdown passes to Jasper Collins and Brandon Brown, Blair Skilliter and Jake Simon each ran for scores while the defense held Centre to 219 total yards. Charles Dieuseul had 12 tackles, 3.0 for loss and 1.5 sacks.
 
Bracketology: For the 14th 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 were given to 26 conference champions, one spot was for a team from a conference not granted an automatic bid 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.
 
Team Captains: Mount Union has five team captains in wide receivers Luke Herrrington (Wintersville/Steubenville) and Jared Ruth (Indianapolis, Ind./Pike), safety Nick Brish (Milford, Mich./Brighton), linebacker Danny Robinson (Massillon/Massillon Washington) and defensive back Louis Berry (Pittsburgh, Pa./Shady Side Academy).
 
Up Next: The winner of this game plays the winner of a matchup between Randolph Macon (Va.) and Muhlenberg (Pa.) in the national quarterfinals next Saturday at noon at a site to be announced Sunday by the NCAA Football Committee.
 
On the Air: All Mount Union football games will be 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 563-999-3112
 
Scouting the Colonels: Centre features and high powered passing offense with an aggressive defense ... sound familar.
 
The Colonels passing attack is led by senior Tanner Young, who is NCAA Division III's fourth highest rated passer (185.9 rating). He has thrown for nearly 3,000 yards with 31 TD's and 10 interceptions. 
 
His top targets -- seniors Jaylon Hibbs and Cody Estep both average over 20 yards a catch. Hibbs has 56 catches for 1,148 yards with 12 scores. Senior Colin Burnam has 14 rushing touchdowns as he has 897 yards on 158 carries on the season.
 
On defense, Centre has 67 tackles for loss with senior Zach Berger with a team-high 13 of those along with 5.5 sacks. Senior Andrew Busby has 74 stops while junior Cal Lewellyn tops the unit with three interceptions.
 
Cheaper By the Dozen: Louis Berry (Pittsburgh, Pa. / Shady Side Academy) had an interception return for a touchdown last week marking his fifth defensive TD of the season. The Raiders have scored 12 defensive TDs and also only allowed opponents 12 TDs this season.
 
Six Pack: Sophomore running back Josh Petruccelli (Perry) ran for 128 yards last week and now has six 100-yard rushing games on the season.
 
Two by Two: Juniors D'Angelo Fulford (Miramar, Fla.) and Justin Hill (Circleville) earned the Bob Packard Offense Back of the Year and Ed Sherman Wide Receiver of the Year awards for the second straight season.
 
Fulford is nation's highest rated quarterback with a 208.4 rating and threw 32 touchdowns to just one interception in the regular season. Named for former Baldwin Wallace head coach Bob Packard it is the 21st time a Mount Union quarterback or running back has won the award and he is the first winner in back-to-back seasons since Mount Union's Bill Borchert in 1996 and 1997.
 
Hill had three 100-yard receiving games this year with 10 touchdown catches. The award is named after former Muskingum head coach Ed Sherman and it is the 12th time a Mount Union player has won the award and first back-to-back winner since Heidelberg's Demetrius Magee in 2016 and 2017.
 
Defensive Dynamic Duo: Seniors Danny Robinson (Massillon / Washington) and Louis Berry won the Gene Slaughter Linebacker of the Year award and Lee Tressel Defensive Back of the Year award.
 
Robinson is a team captain and leads the Raider defense in tackles. The award is named for former Capital head coach Gene Slaughter and it is the 12th time a Mount Union linebacker has won the award and first since Hank Spencer in 2015.
 
Berry is a team captain and has four interceptions and two fumble returns and has scored five defensive touchdowns for a defense that has scored 12 touchdowns on the season. The award is named for former Baldwin Wallace coach Lee Tressel and it is the 13th time a Mount Union defensive back has won the award and first since Tre Jones in 2015.
 
Coaching Up: Vince Kehres was named OAC Coach of the Year for the third time in his six seasons as Raiders head coach. He has an 81-4 record which is the most wins by a college football coach over the last six seasons and won his fifth conference title as head coach this season. It is the 10th time a Mount Union coach has won the award as Larry Kehres got the award six times and Ken Wable in 1985.
 
Assistant coach Geoff Dartt was named OAC Assistant Coach of the Year as he returned the Mount Union coaching staff this season and has aided an offense that is second in the nation in the scoring at 54.5 points per game. It is his second stint on the Raiders staff as he spent five seasons as an assistant coach and the Port Clinton, Ohio, native played on three national championship teams at Mount Union. Dartt also earned this award in 2013 and it is the seventh time a Mount Union coach has been given the award.