Mount Union Purple Raiders Top John Carroll to Advance to Semi-Finals
John Carroll University has gotten quite used to playing Mount Union University each year. These two are the heavyweights of the Ohio Athletic Conference, and frequently play each other for the conference title. Unfortunately for the Blue Streak there is another thing that they are very familiar with; losing to their bitter rival and Saturday was no exception, as the Purple Raiders pulled out that 36-28 win to advance to the semi-finals of the NCAA Division-III football playoffs.
This was a game where Mount Union never trailed. The Purple Raiders took the opening kickoff and moved 81-yards in just 7-plays for the first touchdown of the game. Quarterback Kevin Burke’s 13-yard touchdown pass to Roman Namdar made in 7-0. Burke had a 16-yard strike to Namdar earlier in the drive and Taurice Scott had a huge first down run for 24 more that moved the ball into the Blue Streak’s end of the field.
Late in the first quarter the Purple Raiders extended their lead. Kyle Rodriguez’s 40-yard punt was returned 43-yards by Tim Kennedy, setting up a first down at the JCU 18-yard line. Two plays later Logan Nemeth made a couple of big moves on his way to an 18-yard touchdown to extend the lead to 14-0.
The Blue Streak immediately responded. Mark Myers first pass of the drive went to for 17-yards to Aramis Greenwood, setting up first and 10 at the JCU 30. However back-to-back false start penalties made it first and 20. No worries for John Carroll. Myers hit Greenwood for 11-yards and Tommy Michals then had back-to-back runs of 10- and 9-yards to move the team to midfield. Seven plays later it was MIchals again, this time rushing for 2-yards and the score to make it 14-7. The John Carroll QB completed all seven of his passes on the drive.
On their next possession the Blue Streak tied the score. The drive was set up when Brody Zangaro created a fumble at the JCU 25-yard line. Marty Gibbons recovered and raced 64-yards before finally being tackled at the Mount Union 11. Six plays later Myers passed to Zach Strippy for the 1-yard touchdown to tie the game.
The last four possessions of the half would see furious end-to-end action. With 3:18 left in the half the Purple Raiders started their drive at the John Carroll 42. Burke’s first pass went for 20-yards to Namdar down to the 22. On the next play Burke hooked up with Sherman Wilkinson for a 22-yard touchdown to give Mount Union back the lead.
Not to be outdone, it was time for Myers to come up with a big play. He would begin his next drive at his own 20-yard line, and after an incomplete pass, Myers hit a streaking Marshall Howell for the 80-yard touchdown, tying the game once again.
Back the other direction Burke and the Mount Union offense would go. A short kickoff gave the Purple Raiders good field position at their own 36-yard line. Burke made key completions to Namdar for 18-yards and Scott for 26 more that put the ball at the John Carroll 30. On the fifth play of the drive Burke found Wilkinson again for a 26-yard touchdown, and Mount Union was back on top.
With just 1:16 left in the half, Myers would attempt to make magic one more time. His first two passes moved the Blue Streak 27-yards to their own 44. An interference call gave them another first down at the Mount Union 42, however two 5-yard penalties made it first and 20. Myers next four passes all fell incomplete and the half came to an end.
It was an absolutely fast and furious first half that saw 49-points put on the board (28 by Mount Union). It was obvious that the two teams needed to make some adjustments in the second half, and that is exactly what they did.
The second half began with seven series where the defenses were the stars. John Carroll turned the ball over on downs to start out the half. On their next possession a fumble caused by Tre Jones gave the Purple Raiders the ball at their 17 when Joshua Scott fell on it. The Blue Steak then punted on their next possession, making three second half possessions that ended in a turnover on downs, a fumble and a punt.
While the Mount Union defense was doing their part, so was the John Carroll defense. They forced three punts to start out the second half, and allowed 12 total plays for 44 yards. The second half was shaping up to look a whole lot different than the first.
With the Mount Union offense putting up 28-points in the first half, it was time for the defense to get into the act in the second. With 1:26 left in the third quarter the Blue Streak began their drive at their own 11. Three plays later they were forced to punt, but a muffed snap led to a safety that gave the Purple Raiders two more points. Buoyed by the big play, it was time for the offense to get back on the board.
The free kick gave Mount Union the ball at the JCU 45 following a 33-yard return by Scott. On the second play of the drive Burke found Namdar for 36 yards down to 7. Two plays later it was Burke again, this time passing to Luc Meacham for a 5-yard touchdown. The team went for two which failed, but up by 15, they knew that JCU needed two scores to get back into the game.
Myers moved John Carroll to the Mount Union 9-yard line on their next drive, but on fourth and 6, the QB was forced to scramble and was tackled by Mike Furda and Hank Spencer well short of the first down marker.
The Purple Raiders were forced to punt after just three plays on their next drive, giving Myers the ball at the Mount Union 41. This time he was not to be denied. The John Carroll quarterback completed 3 of 5 passes and ran for 13 yards. His final pass of the drive was a 3-yard completion to Strippy to cut the deficit to eight.
Both teams swapped punts before Mount Union received the ball with 3:43 left in the game. They would not give it back. Burke had a huge first down run for 10-yards on third and 9 at their own 43. On third and 4 it was Burke again, this time for 5-yards and another first down. With no way to stop the clock, Burke just took a knee three times to end the game.
The Purple Raiders’ quarterback had a big game, going 20-37 for 297 and 4 touchdowns. Namdar had 6-catches for 123 yards and a TD, and Wilkinson had 2 touchdown catches. Myers passed for 362 yards and 3 touchdowns in a losing effort.
While the Mount Union defense gave up 386 total yards, only 24 of that came on the ground, and they had four sacks. Jonathan Goneil and Joshua Scott led the team with 11 tackles each.
Next weekend the Mount Union Purple Raiders will take on the Wesley Wolverines in the semi-finals of the NCAA Division-III playoffs. This will be a matchup of two heavyweights as Mount Union ended the season ranked No. 3 and Wesley No. 4. A preview of this game will be available on Wednesday on the Minor League Sports Report.
By Robert Pannier