Football: #1 Mount Union Beats Centre, 51-35; Raiders Make 27th Straight Trip to NCAA Quarterfinals

Josh Petruccelli (Photo by Dan Poel,
Josh Petruccelli (Photo by Dan Poel,

ALLIANCE, Ohio – No. 1 ranked Mount Union beat Centre (Ky.) 51-35 in the second round of the NCAA Playoffs Saturday at Mount Union Stadium.

The Purple Raiders (12-0) advance to the national quarterfinals for the 27th straight year and take on No. 22 Muhlenberg (Pa.)  -- a 35-6 winner over Randolph Macon (Va.) -- next Saturday at noon at a site to be announced Sunday by the NCAA.

Josh Petruccelli (Perry) ran for over 100 yards in the first quarter for the second straight week as he finished with a career-best 162 rushing yards and four touchdowns to lead the Mount Union offense.

D'Angelo Fulford (Miramar, Fla) returned to the lineup and threw two touchdowns – one each to Jared Ruth (Indianapolis, Ind. / Pike) and Justin Hill (Circleville) – in just over a quarter of action.

Centre (10-2), playing without Southern Athletic Association Player of the Year in quarterback Tanner Young, had no answer for a Mount Union defense that had four interceptions and a blocked punt in the first half.  

Danny Robinson (Massillon / Washington) had one of the interceptions and a blocked punt, Trevor Cox (Hilliard / Darby) had two interceptions and Gabe Brown (Plant City, Fla. / Durant) had six stops for the Raiders.

After forcing a three-and-out and a short punt, the Raiders got the ball on the Colonels 35-yard line and Mount Union scored seven plays later on a Petruccelli five-yard run to make it 7-0.

Centre got a first down on its next drive but stalled there and the Raiders came right back and scored in 57 seconds on a 42-yard pass from Fulford to Ruth to push the lead to 14-0.

The Colonels got on the board on a 38-yard touchdown pass from John Walton to Cody Estep to cut the margin in half, but Mount Union came back on the very next play from scrimmage as Petruccelli ran 75 yards for a touchdown and it was 21-7 with 3:14 left in the quarter.

On the ensuing possession, Centre quarterback John Walton was picked off by Robinson and Mount Union converted it into a Cory Barnett kicked a 40-yard field goal at the end of the first quarter and the Raiders led 24-7.

Robinson then made a play on the next Centre drive as he blocked a punt on the Colonels 15-yard-line which Edwin Reed (Ft. Lauderdale / Hollywood Hills) returned the one-yard line and one play later Petruccelli punched it in for his third touchdown of the day to take the score to 31-7.

The Raiders got the ball back again in the red zone after a Ruth 51-yard punt return then Fulford threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Hill but a missed extra point left the score 37-7.

The Mount Union defense did it again hauling down its second interception of the game this time from Trevor Cox (Hilliard / Darby) which gave the Raiders the ball at the Centre 14-yard line. Four plays later Petruccelli punched in his fourth touchdown of the day and it was 44-7.

Mount Union's Jalen Griffin (Chicago, Ill. / Simeon) then continued the defense's dominant quarter with the team's third interception then backup quarterback Jake Keeney (Alexandria, Va. / Hayfield) threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Demarco Haynes (Miramar, Fla. / Chaminade-Madonna) and it was 51-7. Centre threw its fourth interception right before halftime as Cox picked off his second on the day.

Centre scored four second half touchdowns against the Mount Union backups -- Jaylon Hibbs caught a 32-yard touchdown pass, two Colin Burnham rushes and a Jordan Gunter 28-yard reception for the 51-35 final.