Beat visiting Carthage 38-20 to advance

Dec. 4, 2004

From Mount Union Athletics

Mount Union College (12-0) earned a 38-20 victory over visiting Carthage, WI (11-2) on Saturday, December 4, at Mount Union Stadium in Alliance, Ohio, clinching a 10th consecutive trip to the Division III Playoff Semi-Finals.

The Purple Raiders took their opening drive 42 yards on six plays capped off by a 27-yard field goal by kicker George Wilders at 12:16 of the first quarter. Later in the quarter, the Redmen gained excellent field position after a Raider punt into a 20 mile per hour wind was returned 12 yards to Mount Union's six-yard line. Carthage running back Dante Washington scored two plays later from two yards out. Matt Denny's PAT made the score 7-3 Carthage with 8:33 remaining in the first quarter.

Mount Union's next possession covered 80 yards on 14 plays culminating in a four-yard touchdown run by quarterback Zac Bruney. Wilders' PAT made the score 10-7 Mount Union with 2:29 left in the first period. During the middle of that drive, the Redmen were called for a five-yard running into the kicker penalty on fourth and six. Mount Union elected to go for it on fourth down and one. Running back Jeff's Strauch's five-yard carry kept the drive alive.

At 12:48 of the second quarter, Carthage regained the lead when Washington ran in it from one yard out to cap off a 71-yard drive. Denny's PAT made the score 14-10. A team-best 16-yard run by Washington and a 16-yard pass completion from quarterback Ferni Garza to wide receiver Jake Johnson were instrumental in the touchdown march.

Mount Union answered that score immediately on their first play from scrimmage when Bruney connected with wide receiver Jason Cavell on a 50-yard touchdown pass. Wilders' PAT gave the Raiders a 17-14 lead with 12:33 remaining in the second quarter.

Carthage would threaten late in the second quarter before Raider cornerback Ross Watson's interception on Mount Union's eight-yard line preserved the 17-14 lead heading into the break.

The Redmen took their first possession of the third quarter and marched 42 yards on 10 plays culminating in a 37-yard field goal by Denny with 10:07 left in the third. That tied the score at 17-17.

"Every loss hurts, especially when you are tied with Mount Union in the third quarter, it probably hurts a little more," said Carthage head coach Tim Rucks. "That doesn't diminish from what our guys accomplished this year. I'm extremely proud of this group of players."

On Carthage's next possession, Raider middle-linebacker Shaun Spisak, who had a game-best 17 hits, forced a fumble that was recovered by end Marcello DeAngelis on the Redmen 30 yard line. Bruney followed with a 21-yard touchdown run on fourth and one at 3:42 of the third quarter. Wilders' PAT put Mount Union back up 24-17.

"Their defense was really jacked up," said Bruney afterwards. "They were pursuing really well. Fortunately, they bit on the fake inside and that allowed me to turn the corner on that fourth down play. Carthage has a very good defense. They come after you hard with their blitz package which is very hard to simulate in practice."

Carthage would strike first in the final stanza when Denny connected on his field goal attempt from 29-yard out at 11:22 making it 24-20 Mount Union. That drive covered 59 yards on 14 plays.

Mount close out the contest scoring the game's final 14 points. A 53-yard pass from Bruney to tight end Drew Hanley at 10:25 followed by a Wilders PAT gave the Raiders a 31-20 edge. On their next possession, Bruney connected on a 30-yard touchdown strike to wide receiver Joe Bugara on fourth and four with 6:32 remaining in the contest. Wilders' PAT made the eventual final 38-20 Raiders.

Statistically, Carthage was led by Washington's 37 carry/150 yard rushing performance. His carry total and yards rushing were season highs versus Mount Union in 2004. Garza finished 9-of-17 for 110 yards. Defensively, linebacker Mike Pelkowski had a team-best 15 hits. Defensive back Brett Barnes had one interception in the game.

The Purple Raiders were paced by Bruney, who finished 10-of-17 for 230 yards and three touchdowns. He also six carries for 44 yards and two rushing scores. Cavell had three receptions for a team-best 78 yards. Defensively, Spisak had a game-best 17 hits while safety Jesse Clum had 15 hits.

"Shaun Spisak has played outstanding football all season long," said Raider head coach Larry Kehres in the post-game press conference. "He's played as well as any middle linebacker we've had here since I've been coach."

Mount Union had 349 total yards compared 282 for Carthage. The Redmen had 172 yards on the ground compared to 119 for Mount Union. This was the first game this season the Raiders were out-rushed. The Raiders committed one turnover while the Redmen turned it over twice.

Mount Union has now won 121 of its last 123 games played dating back to the 1996 season.

The Raiders will next host Mary-Hardin Baylor (12-1) of Belton, Texas, on Saturday, December 11 at noon. Raider season ticket holders and parents of players should call 330-821-6759 on Monday, Dec. 6 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The general public should call the same number beginning Tuesday, Dec. 7. The winner of next week's contest plays in the Div. III championship game (Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl) in Salem, VA. on Saturday, Dec. 18.