December 4, 2010

Familiar faces in football's final four

More news about: Bethel | Mount Union | UW-Whitewater | Wesley

Chris Mayes had four sacks as Wesley locked down Mary Hardin-Baylor's offense.

Wesley athletics file photo

The final four teams have all been in the Division III football final four in the past four seasons, as dual powerhouses UW-Whitewater and Mount Union advanced, along with Wesley (2009 semifinalist) and Bethel (a 2007 semifinalist).

Wesley defended its top seed and will get to host the national semifinals after defeating Mary Hardin-Baylor 19-9. The Wolverines held the Crusaders' powerful rushing attack to 136 yards, 188 yards below its season average coming in. 

Wesley struck first on a touchdown pass from Justin Sottilare to Ellis Krout from 24 yards out. The Crusaders blocked the extra point and then kicked a field goal off a Wolverines fumble to cut the lead to 6-3. But Wesley kicked two more field goals to build a 12-3 halftime lead. 

In the second half Sottilare found Krout again for a touchdown to push the lead to 19-3.  The Crusaders responded by driving to the Wesley 1-yard line.  But the Crusaders were called for a delay of game on fourth-and-goal and then Quincy Daniels was tackled for a loss by Wesley's Sean Scanlon and Mike Aseidu on the next play. Mary Hardin-Baylor eventually found the end zone on a Daniels 42-yard touchdown run but did not score again.

Mount Union
Mount Union locked down Alfred to the tune of 149 total yards in the 37-7 win.
Photo by Dan Poel for d3photography.com

The possibility of a sixth Stagg Bowl between Mount Union and UW-Whitewater is very much alive. UW-Whitewater beat North Central on the road 20-10 and will travel to Dover, Del., next Saturday. Mount Union kept rolling at home and will get to stay there next weekend. The Warhawks forced three turnovers in the final 16 minutes and rallied to beat North Central behind a steady dose of Levell Coppage. 

North Central scored first and the game was tied at the half in part by keeping the ball out of the Warhawks' hands. UW-Whitewater ran just 24 plays in the first half and had the ball for less than 12 minutes, then punted the ball and pinned North Central deep on their first possession of the second half. But the Cardinals drove 82 yards and kicked a 32-yard field goal to take a 10-7 lead midway through the third quarter.

After that it was all Coppage and the Warhawks offense, however, which was missing starting quarterback Matt Blanchard for the third consecutive playoff game. Coppage ran for 87 of his 107 yards in the second half as the Warhawks took the lead on a Lee Brekke 5-yard touchdown run and two Eric Kindler field goals for the final 20-10 margin.

The Purple Raiders took care of Alfred 37-7 to advance to the national semifinals for the 16th consecutive year. Cecil Shorts continued his impressive playoff performance by posting nine catches for 115 yards and one touchdown.  Shorts now has 27 catches for 366 yards and five scores in three games. 

Mount Union will stay home for the national semifinals because Bethel upended MIAC rival St. Thomas 12-7. The Royals got a 1-yard touchdown run from Logan Flannery and Josh Aakre capped a 95-yard drive for the second as Bethel again survived its utter lack of a kicking game. Flannery came up with the afternoon of a lifetime, rushing for 200 yards on 38 carries in the win.

The Tommies scored on the opening drive of the game in less than five minutes, as Colin Tobin broke loose for a 46-yard on a drive that ended with a 2-yard scoring run. But Bethel's defense, combined with several penalties, some pass drops and the absence of injured Fritz Waldvogel and Ben Wartman, shut St. Thomas out over the final three and a half quarters.

Bethel gained 177 of its 305 total yards and had a 20:14 to 9:46 edge in possession time in the second half.

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