Mount Union’s defense scores three TDs


By JEFF ZUPANIC

sports@vindy.com

ALLIANCE

Mount Union’s offense and defense got into a scoring battle on Saturday afternoon.

Especially in the first quarter where the Purple Raiders scored five touchdowns — three by the offense and two by the defense — to finish undefeated in the regular season for the 27th time since 1985.

Mount Union blasted Marietta 49-7 and turns its focus on defending its NCAA Division III national championship. The Purple Raiders (10-0, 9-0 Ohio Athletic Conference) are expected to one of the top four seeds, if not the top seed, and could be at home for the duration of the postseason.

The playoffs pairings will be announced at 5:30 p.m. Sunday.

“I like where we are right now. We have been battle tested and had our backs to the wall,” said Mount Union head coach Vince Kehres.

The Pioneers (7-3, 6-3) never gave themselves a chance by deferring after winning the coin toss. They elected to put the high-powered Purple Raiders’ offense on the field first against a 213th ranked defense and it cost them dearly.

Mount Union needed just five plays to take a 7-0 lead. It quickly became 14-0 for the offense. The defense got into the act on the next couple of possessions with pick-6s by Trey Williams and Lou Berry made it 28-0.

“When you get momentum, you want to make sure you keep the momentum. I thought we did a good job doing that,” Kehres said. “We had a big hit by Malik Britt on the kickoff and I thought that really put the momentum with us.”

Ernie Burkes took over for D’Angelo Fulford at quarterback after just three series and gave the advantage back to the offense with a 6-yard pass to Cole Moxie for a 35-0 lead.

Berry got his second defensive score of the game with a strip-and-score from midfield to give Mount Union a 49-0 lead with 5:20 left in the first half.

“I just have that never give up mentality and look to make a play,” Berry said. “I saw the ball and decided I had nothing to lose so I just went for the ball. That’s our aggressive mentality on defense.”

At the half, The Purple Raiders’ offense had 28 points. The defense had 21 points. Marietta had zero points. The Pioneers came into the game averaging 42.1 points per game and scored the only points of the second half in the third quarter.

Sophomore running back Josh Petruccelli finished with his fifth 100-yard rushing game of the season. The Purple Raiders ran for 251 yards and only attempted 18 passes in a game that was over early in the first quarter.

Mount Union finished the regular season with 11 defensive touchdowns. Opposing offenses scored just 12 touchdowns against the Purple Raiders in 10 games.

“I don’t know if I can recall getting three defensive touchdowns in a game,” Kehres said. “I thought our first-team defense played pretty well. They got our guys attention with their stats and how they looked on film.”

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