Texas Two Step; Two Interception Returns For Touchdowns Take #1 Mount Union to Stagg Bowl

Trevor Cox (Photo by Dan Poel, OhioSI.com)
Trevor Cox (Photo by Dan Poel, OhioSI.com)

ALLIANCE, Ohio – No. 1 ranked Mount Union scored a 28-20 victory over No. 13 Johns Hopkins Saturday in an NCAA Division III Playoff semifinal Saturday at Mount Union Stadium.

The Purple Raiders (14-0) win their 29th game in a row and advance to the Stagg Bowl – national title game – for the 21st time to play the winner of a semifinal between No. 2 Mary Hardin-Baylor and No. 4 Wisconsin-Whitewater next Friday, Dec. 14 at 7 p.m. at Woodforest Bank Stadium in Shenandoah, Texas.

Mount Union running back Josh Petruccelli (Perry) ran for 110 yards – his ninth 100-yard rushing performance of the season -- and quarterback D'Angelo Fulford (Miramar, Fla.) threw two touchdown passes to Justin Hill (Circleville) to lead the offense.

The Raiders defense continued its dominance as it scored two touchdowns on interception returns of 90 yards by Trevor Cox (Hillard / Darby) and 76 yards by Gabe Brown (Plant City, Fla. / Durant) while holding an offense that averaged 560-plus yards a game to 367 yards. Along with the two interceptions, Mount Union had six sacks with Mitch O'Hara (Avon / Lakewood St. Edward) having one of then with a team-best nine stops.

After the Mount Union defense forced a three-and-out, the Raiders took over on offense and moved 89 yards on eight plays as Fulford hit Hill on a 39-yard touchdown pass for the only score of the first quarter.

On the first drive of the second quarter Hopkins moved the ball to the Mount Union 12-yard-line before the Raider defense forced a stop of fourth down. Hopkins defense held and the Blue Jays pushed the ball deep into Mount Union territory again but a pass tipped by Brown was returned by Cox 90 yards for a score to put the Raiders up 14-0. It was a Mount Union record for the longest interception return in its playoff history.

Hopkins got on the board with a defensive score of their own as Jake Vall-llobera forced a Fulford fumble and Robert Fletcher returned it 25 yards for a touchdown but the extra point was blocked by Louis Berry (Pittsburgh, Pa. / Shady Side Academy) and the Raiders led 14-6 at the half.

After both teams punted on their first possessions of the second half, Mount Union got the ball on its own eight-yard line and went 92 yards on seven plays as Fulford went 5-of-5 passing including a 14-yard strike to Hill and pushed the lead to 21-6.

Hopkins converted an interception into another touchdown as Stuart Walters ran it in from seven yards out and the Blue Jays made a two-point conversion to get the score to 21-13.

Hopkins got the stop it needed on defense and took the ball to the Mount Union 24-yard line where Brown picked off a pass and took it back 76 yards for a score to put the Raiders up 28-13 with just under five minutes to go.

The Blue Jays rallied moving 77 yards on four plays and Walters punched it in from one yard out to get the score to 28-20 but Hopkins failed to get the onside kick and the Raiders ran out the clock.

Hopkins (12-2) quarterback David Tammaro was 27-of-40 for 250 yards and Ryan Hubbley had 109 yards receiving on five catches.