By Greg Gulas
You have to go back to the 1930 season to find the last time an opponent scored 59 points on the Mount Union defense. That year, the Purple Raiders were shut out by Ohio State in the first game as they stumbled through a 4-5-1 season.
Saturday, the Purple Raiders escaped a late scare at MUC Field, defeating Wesley College, 62-59, in the Division III quarterfinals for their 13th consecutive win.
On a record-setting afternoon by Wolverines quarterback Joe Callahan and wide receiver Steve Koudossou, it was the play of Purple Raiders signal-caller Kevin Burke, who accounted for five touchdowns (three passing, two rushing) that vaulted Mount Union (13-0) into their 19th consecutive semifinal appearance.
“We might not do well on a play or certain drive, but we keep working hard and that’s what we did today,” Burke said. “It’s not just scoring a touchdown or holding an opponent, it’s executing and getting done what needs to be done.
“We’ll take this game, learn from it and use it to our advantage,” Burke said. “I’m just glad we’ll be playing next week.”
Saturday, Mount Union will host Illinois’ North Central College, which advanced by defeating Bethel University, 41-17.
The Purple Raiders raced to a 31-0 lead. They needed just two plays to forge a 14-0 advantage 82 seconds into the game.
Freshman running back B.J. Mitchell raced 67 yards on the game’s first play for their first tally. On the first play of their second possession, Burke found wide receiver Sherman Wilkinson for a 23-yard scoring strike.
The onslaught continued when Luc Meacham added a 76-yard punt return for a score and Tre Jones raced 56 yards with an interception.
“I don’t know if they changed much of their game plan after that first quarter, but they got away from the run, used more screens and executed much better,” Mount Union head coach Vince Kehres said.
Joe Callahan finally got Wesley (10-3) on the board with a 4-yard pass to Jamar Baynard at 11:40 of the second quarter. The teams exchanged five more scores as Mount Union built a 48-20 halftime advantage.
Two more touchdown passes by Callahan to Braynard made it 48-34. Intensity increased when Callahan hit Bryce Shade with a 16-yard strike for a 48-41 score with 11:51 remaining.
Burke threw for a touchdown and ran for another, and the Purple Raiders recorded a safety for a 62-43 lead.
Callahan responded with an 81-yard touchdown pass to Shade and a 56-yard bomb to Koudossou to cut the Mount Union lead to 62-59 with 1:30 remaining.
Then Purple Raiders recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock.
Callahan’s 633 yards passing set a new Division III playoff record while his eight touchdowns tied former Mount Union quarterback Jim Ballard.
Koudossou, a junior, had 273 receiving yards to break his single-game record.