Wesley College’s football team hopes the third time is the charm as they make their third trip to the NCAA Division III football semifinals in 5 years.
Wesley College’s football team hopes the third time is the charm as they make their third trip to the NCAA Division III football semifinals in 5 years. The undefeated and third ranked Wolverines (13-0) head to Alliance, Ohio Saturday to face undefeated and top-ranked Mount Union (13-0) for a trip to the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl, the Division III championship game.
Wesley previously reached the semifinal round in 2005 and 2006, losing big each time at Wisconsin-Whitewater. In ’05, the Wolverines lost 58-6. In ’06, they suffered a 44-7 setback. But head coach Mike Drass believes those previously trips to the final four mean little here in 2009.
“It only prepares us in the sense of how we prepare our team and traveling two days and some of those things.” Drass said. “Only a couple of the seniors were on the team back in 2006. As a coaching staff, you draw off the experience of playing in the semifinal game and not trying to make it too big of a production.”
The challenge this time may be much larger than those two trips to Whitewater. Mount Union, the defending Division III national champ, has won 10 DIII titles overall and six of the last nine. The Purple Raiders are also in the semifinals for a 15th straight year and looking for their 12th Stagg Bowl bid in 14 years.
An impressive resume that seems to have created a Mount Union mystique, something Drass is cautioning his team to avoid focusing on this week.
“You’re not playing against what Mount Union has accomplished over the last 15 years.” said Drass. “We’re not playing 10 national titles. We’re playing for the opportunity to play for one, and the only person that can let that into your head is you. We’re going to be stepping on the field with another 13-0 team. We don’t need to play two opponents. We don’t need to play a reputation and play a team. We need to play a team.”
The Mount Union team Wesley will play is one that has dominated opponents this year, scoring over 45 points per game while allowing just under 8 per contest. Drass believes it all starts up front for the Purple Raiders.
“They’ve had great success this season with their guys up front, and I think they are able to control ballgames with the play of their offensive and defensive lines,” said Drass. “They do have a pro prospect in Cecil Shorts, who has 88 catches for over 1,500 yards, so they are not without their superstars, but when it’s all said and done, it’s the guys up front on both sides of the ball that win games for them.”
Wesley’s numbers are nearly as impressive at Mount Union’s. The Wolverines have scored nearly 36 points per game and have yielded just 10 per contest, numbers they’ll need to duplicate this Saturday if they want to overcome Mount Union’s impressive 35 game home win streak and 18 game home playoff win streak.
“We’ve had one common theme throughout this post-season as a team, and that’s one word: advance,” Drass said. “That’s been our goal each week and if we can continue to do that we’ll reach our ultimate goal.”
Saturday’s Wesley-Mount Union game kicks-off at noon in Alliance, Ohio. The winner heads to the Stagg Bowl December 19th in Salem, Virginia to face the winner of this week’s other semifinal between second ranked Wisconsin-Whitewater and number 5 Linfield (OR).