The rematch in Alliance was as hard-fought and exciting as the first. But, unfortunately for the John Carroll University football team, the University of Mount Union came out on top once again. The Purple Raiders prevailed 36-28, punching their ticket to the Division III national semifinal.
In what has become a trend against Mount Union, the Blue Streaks came out flat in the first quarter. While JCU avoided the costly turnovers that usually haunt them, the offense couldn’t get anything going.
After two Mount Union touchdowns, the Blue Streaks faced a 14-0 deficit heading into the second quarter.
However, the second quarter was much different than the first.
Senior running back Tommy Michals kicked off the scoring for JCU when he finished off a 50-yard drive with a 2-yard rushing touchdown.
A costly fumble by Mount Union on the ensuing possession was returned 64 yards by senior safety Marty Gibbons to the Mount Union 39-yard line, setting up an eventual 1-yard touchdown catch by senior tight end Zach Strippy from senior quarterback Mark Myers.
A flurry of scores, three touchdowns within the final three minutes, lit up the scoreboard as the half came to a close, and Mount Union headed into the break with a 28-21 lead.
Defense was the focal point of the third quarter, with the first seven drives ending without a score for either team.
But with under two minutes left in the quarter, the Purple Raiders pinned the Blue Streaks deep in their own territory. JCU snapped the ball too low for punter Kyle Rodriguez. It skidded out the back of the end zone, giving Mount Union two points and the ball.
The Purple Raiders used that momentum and marched down the field in just over a minute. This was capped off with a 5-yard pass from Mount Union quarterback Kevin Burke to wideout Luc Meacham.
JCU finally found the end zone in the second half when Myers connected with Strippy for their second touchdown connection of the day, cutting the Mount Union lead to just eight points.
JCU’s defense stood strong and forced a Mount Union punt the following possession.
The Blue Streaks were unable to move the ball, and punted it back to Mount Union with just 3:43 left to play.
Behind Burke, the Purple Raiders were able to drain JCU’s timeouts and pick up the first downs needed to run out the clock. This sent Mount Union to its 10th straight national semifinal.
Strippy reflected on the experience after the game, “As a team, we played our hearts out for this university, and coming up short was extremely tough. But the way we fought, the support we had and the memories we made will prove to be influential to us for the rest of our lives.”
The Blue Streaks finished their season at 11-2 and made the program’s deepest NCAA DIII Tournament run since the 2002 season.