NCAA Division-III Playoffs: R. 3, Wolverines v. Purple Raiders
NCAA Division-III Football Playoffs
No. 12 Wesley Wolverines (11-1)
No. 1 Mount Union Purple Raiders (12-0)
How They Got Here:
Wesley went 9-1 in the regular season to win the New Jersey Athletic Conference title. Their only loss was a three-point defeat to Salisbury, who also made the NCAA Division-III playoffs. The team never scored less than 35-points in any game, and scored at least 50 five times.
In the first round of the playoffs, the Wolverines defeated Framingham State 42-22. This was a great matchup early on as the two teams were tied at 14 halfway through the second quarter, but QB Joe Callahan’s 69-yard pass to Alex Kemp helped to break the game open. Callahan finished 32-42 for 411-yards and 4 TDs.
In Round 2 Wesley took on No. 6 Johns Hopkins. The Wolverines scored first, but the Blue Jays battled back to take a 10-7 lead halfway through the second quarter. Callahan responded, scoring from one-yard out to give his team back the lead, and later hit Kemp for a 40-yard touchdown just before the half. A 60-yard touchdown pass to James Okike extended the lead to 42-24, but the Blue Jays were not done. Johns Hopkins battled back to pull within five, but on fourth and 1 at the Wesley 13, Stuart Walters was stopped for no gain and the Wolverines ran out the clock from there.
Callahan had another amazing day, completing 34 of 47 passes for 469-yards and 4-touchdowns. Okike had 9-catches for 249-yards and 2 scores and James Williams had two sacks.
The Mount Union Purple Raiders rolled to a 10-o regular season to win the Ohio Athletic Conference. They shutout the first three opponents they faced this season, and finished with six total shutouts. Combined the Purple Raiders have allowed just 31 total points in the regular season. For a little context, they scored at least 36-points in every game this season, including at least 51-points in seven games.
In Round 1 of the NCAA Division-III football playoffs, Mount Union downed St. Lawrence 55-23. It was 41-o before Lawrence finally got on the board. Logan Nemeth scored three touchdowns in the game and ran for 130-yards. QB Taurice Scott passed for 127-yards and 3 TDs, while running for 171 more and a score.
In Round 2, No. 18 Albright was soundly defeated 66-7. Mount Union jumped out to a 28-0 lead behind two touchdowns by Nemeth and a blocked punt for a score. Nemeth would add a third touchdown later in the game and finished with 185-yards on 21-carries. Scott passed for 238-yards and a pair of touchdowns, as the Purple Raiders defense held Albright to just 172-yards of total offense. The Mount Union defense recorded 11 sacks, led by Mike Vidal, Mike Furda and Tom Lally who each had 2.5-sacks.
Keys to the Game:
Callahan is obviously the guy that makes the Wesley Wolverines offense go. The Minor League Sports Report’s Player of the Year in Division-III football has been nothing short of amazing. As well as he played last Saturday, he also threw three interceptions. If he does that against Mount Union, the Wolverines have no chance.
Special teams are also going to have to come up big for Wesley. Eric Speidel missed seven of 12 field goal attempts, which does not bode well for the Wolverines. They must take advantage of every scoring opportunity, and cannot leave points on the field because they are missing field goals. Alex Kemp must also deliver a huge day in punts and Bryce Shade must continue to give his offense great field position on punt returns.
The defense for Wesley must play very disciplined football. A dynamic quarterback like Scott can cause a team to lose their focus and start chasing the ball. They must focus on their areas of assignments and have trust in their teammates to make plays.
Mount Union needs to continue to play as they have. They are one of the two most complete teams in the country and so playing their game is a key.
To keep this from becoming a high-scoring affair, the secondary must takeaway easy passes. This is a solid group of defensive backs, but they must have their best game of the season against Division-III’s top player.
Outlook: The Welsey Wolverines are a great team; Mount Union is just better. The Purple Raiders are on a mission to wipe away the bad taste they have from last season’s final. Wesley will move the ball, but they are not going to keep it close. Take the Mount Union Purple Raiders 55-28.
By Robert Pannier