ALLIANCE–When there is a first time opponent that competes against the University of Mount Union football team, no one knows what to expect.
For the Centre (KY) football team, they arrived to Mount Union stadium undaunted and full of fight against the #2 ranked Purple Raiders.
Last week, the Purple Raiders did whatever they wanted to do with Benedictine (IL) in a 47-7 victory to open up the Division III playoffs. That was not the case as the Purple Raiders broke open a tenuous 16-10 third quarter lead and eventually powered their way to a 30-10 victory to push their unblemished ledger to 12-0 on the season and into a quarterfinal showdown next weekend against Wabash at a site to be determined by the NCAA.
A major factor as to why the Purple Raiders are advancing was the hard running of tailback Blair Skilliter, who filled in for Jeremy Murray when he departed the contest in part to an undisclosed injury. Skilliter’s 78 yards on 18 carries accounted for the 135 that Mount Union amassed on the ground.
“Blair came on strong for us with Jeremy not all at full strength and then we also had Jake Simon who also ran well for us today. So we have great depth at running back that helped us today,” veteran Mount Union commander Larry Kehres said.
Mount Union jumpstarted the scoring with a 16 play drive that devoured 97 yards and 7:20 off the clock that resulted with a Jasper Collins 10-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Matt Piloto. The drive was aided by a Centre offsides penalty that awarded a first down for the Purple Raiders.
The next two series were fruitful for the purple and white. Running on five of the eight plays on their fourth possession, Skilliter scored his lone touchdown on an two-yard touchdown run that was set up by a 20-yard completion to issue the hosts a 14-0 lead.
A holding penalty on Centre in the end zone awarded Mount Union a 16-0 lead. Was a rout on and was Centre starting to wear down? Kehres did not feel that was happening anytime soon.
“I felt Centre played hard today and they never quit fighting,” he said.
Kehres words proved prophetic. After a Jordan Gay 47-yard field goal to cease the scoring in the first half, the Colonels made the Purple Raiders fans squirm when senior quarterback Tyler Osterman engineered a seven-play 63-yard drive that concluded when he connected to his brother, Jason Osterman for an 18-yard touchdown and all of a sudden, momentum was on the side of the Colonels as they trailed 16-10.
How did Mount Union answer? Their only response was to match the same play drive of the Colonels when Piloto converted on a 22-yard pass completion to Brandon Brown for a touchdown that gave the Purple Raiders a 23-10 lead and much needed breathing room.
Centre had their one best and last chance to get back in the game. Looking for his brother, Tyler threw a deep pass to Jason who was uncovered and had a touchdown catch written all over his hands but to the shock of everyone in the stadium, he failed to make a much needed catch in the end zone. It proved to be costly as the Purple Raiders put the resilient Colonels away with a late touchdown run from Jake Simon to account for the 30-10 score.
Despite the win, Kehres was not pleased with the offensive production overall.
“Centre played us real tough and much of our offensive inefficiency had a lot to do with that,” Kehres said. “We have to be more focused when we have the ball, we were all over the place today. We need to be more consistent and we will work on that.”
Centre came to Mount Union stadium undaunted and ready for competition in the first meeting between the two schools but in the end, the Purple Raiders have completed 120 minutes of post-season football and will play another 60 next week.