Centre Football: Colonels look forward to challenge at Mount Union
Centre College wide receivers Jason Osterman, facing camera and Rob Melillo celebrate a touchdown catch by Osterman during the Colonels' 51-41 victory over Hampden-Sydney on Saturday in the first round of the NCAA Division III playoffs. Centre travels to 10-time national champion Mount Union in a second-round game this Saturday. (Clay Jackson)
It is perhaps the most recognizable brand in small-college football, and it is also the next opponent for Centre College.
The Colonels know at least a little about the history and reputation of the team they’ll play in the second round of the NCAA Division III playoffs, and they say they’re looking forward to the challenge ahead of them Saturday in Alliance, Ohio.
“It’s going to be a great opportunity,” Centre quarterback Tyler Osterman said.
Mount Union has won 10 of the 38 D-III national championships, all since 1993. The Purple Raiders have played Wisconsin-Whitewater in the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl — the D-III championship game — in each of the last six years, winning three of them. Since 2000, they have the most wins (164) and the best winning percentage (.965) in all of college football.
“Everyone in D-III knows about Mount Union. They’ve been in the national championship game every year for ... years, so it’s a great opportunity for us, and we’re just going to come in next week, do what we do each week to prepare, go up there and execute with everything we have each play and see how it goes,” Osterman said.
Mount Union (11-0) finished the regular season ranked No. 2 in both national polls behind Wisconsin-Whitewater, which has beaten them in the last two title games. The Purple Raiders defeated Benedictine (Ill.) 47-7 in their first-round playoff game Saturday.
But not even they have a better playoff winning percentage than Centre (9-1), which defeated Hampden-Sydney 51-41 in its playoff debut Saturday.
And the Colonels say they don’t intend to treat Mount Union any differently than any of their previous opponents.
“Its just another game for us. It’s a big game, and it’s on a big stage, but we’ve got to keep it mentally as just another game,” linebacker Jared Ferguson said. “It’s a one week season, and we’ve just to to prepare like it is that.”
Centre coach Andy Frye probably knows quite a bit more about Mount Union than his players — and he’s still looking forward to playing them.
“I am just thrilled to be able to play Mount Union,” he said.
Frye, a Westerville, Ohio, native, coached in the 1980s at Muskingum, his alma mater and a school located about 90 miles south of Mount Union, which is about 20 miles northeast of Canton.
“That was right when Mount Union was just starting their run,” he said. “These guys don’t realize it, but that goes back to the early ’90s. They were 4 years old when Mount Union started their run (of championships). I’m honored to play them.”