Around the Region

Return of the Mules

No, there's no Pool C trophy, but if there were, Muhlenberg would have gotten one of those for its trophy case as well.
Muhlenberg athletics photo 

Five weeks to Salem. We knew Johns Hopkins, Christopher Newport, and Wesley would have an opportunity to get there. Two other Mid-Atlantic teams will join them. The Wolverines will host ODAC champ Hampden-Sydney, the Blue Jays will host NJAC champ Rowan, the Captains travel to MAC runner-up Delaware Valley, and Muhlenberg earned a Pool C berth and will travel to MAC champ Widener.

Join the bracket challenge and see if you can best my picks, which include a Mid-Atlantic team playing in the Stagg Bowl on Dec. 19.

Muhlenberg is back in the playoffs for the first time since 2010, and the first time ever as a Pool C selection. There are very few conferences in the country with the credibility and level of competition to present a strong at-large case for the conference runner-up. With nine conference games each season, Centennial Conference teams have a miniscule non-conference resume. Their strength of schedule is largely dependent on their conference rivals.

The Centennial teams went 7-3 in non-conference play this season. The Mules defeated 2-8 Wilkes in the season opener. But they played conference champion No. 7 Johns Hopkins tough, trailing just 28-23 early in the fourth quarter before losing 42-26. That game was also played in September, and the Mules closed the regular season with six straight victories. Their average margin of victory in nine wins was 27.8. Those factors built a solid resume and the selection committee took notice.

“We expected to be in,” said Mules head coach Mike Donnelly. “We felt we were deserving. We know that every game counts and we know that you can be 9-1 and be a bubble team.”

In the second NCAA regional rankings, Muhlenberg was tied with Texas Lutheran for fifth in the South Region, ahead of Centre. Both TLU and Centre earned at-large bids to the tournament. The Mules knew they would have at least one more game to play, whether it was a first round tournament game or an ECAC bowl game.

They earned a trip to undefeated MAC champion Widener, renewing an old rivalry that was last played in 1982. The following year, Muhlenberg left the MAC to join the Centennial and the teams have not met since.

The Mules are led by sophomore quarterback Nick Palladino and freshman running back Max Cepeda, but the tone was set by the upperclassmen who took the program to a new level in the offseason.

“This team has worked extremely hard. Our kids have been just crazy workaholics,” said Donnelly. “After last year’s offseason, that was the one thing that became obvious. Each team...

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Columnist

Adam Turer

Adam Turer graduated in 2006 from Washington and Lee University, where he was a two-year starter at free safety. He lives in Cincinnati and covers area high school sports in addition to his full-time job as an attorney. Adam has contributed to D3football.com since 2007 and is in his third season as Around the Mid-Atlantic columnist.

2007-2011 columnist: Ryan Tipps
2003-2006: Pat Cummings
2000: Keith McMillan
1999: Pat Coleman 

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Previous Columns

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Return of the Mules
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