The Fitch High graduate became a starter this year and is a key to the defense's success.
By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
ALLIANCE -- Stan Watson waited his turn. Now, he's making the most of a championship opportunity.
Watson is a starting senior outside linebacker for the defending national champion Mount Union College football team (11-0), which is making another run through the Division III playoffs.
A special teams player last season, Watson, an Austintown Fitch High graduate, was thrust into the starting lineup for the first time this season and has helped key the Purple Raiders' defense.
"It's humbling to come from high school to a place like this and be surrounded by so many great athletes," said the 6-foot, 210-pound Watson.
"Like we tell these young guys, it's not an easy thing to do -- to come here from high school where you've played a lot," he said. "You have to work hard and wait your turn, just like everybody else."
Worth it: Watson's wait was well worth it. He has played in all 11 games this season, with 57 total tackles -- seven for loss -- and three sacks.
In the Purple Raiders' 32-7 playoff win over Augustana last week, Watson had six tackles -- four for loss -- and two sacks as the defense held Augustana to 72 second-half yards.
"It was my goal to become a starter this year," Watson said. "I worked hard in the off-season, spending time with the coaches watching film."
Watson also knew he needed to increase his speed, so he spent time at the track. Now, he fits in well with a defense that thrives on speed.
"We feel our defense has great speed and runs to the ball well," Watson said.
"We came into the season trying to find an identity for ourselves. We feel like we've done that," he said. "We play great as a unit. We pride our defense on 11 [players] as one."
Challenged: That defense will be challenged again Saturday when Mount Union faces Wittenberg (11-1) in a quarterfinal playoff game at Mount Union Stadium.
"They're not one-dimensional," Watson said of the Tigers. "They run and pass the ball well."
The Purples Raiders are only three wins from their second straight national championship and sixth overall, and they're doing it with Watson in the starting lineup.
"I'm just incredibly grateful to be part of the program," said Watson, who has one year of eligibility remaining. "I'm honored to be part of what we have here, and I'm happy to do whatever I can."