Saturday, November 6, 2010

Raiders’ strong second half dooms B-W

BEREA — It was the classic tale of two halves.

In an intense battle for an Ohio Athletic Conference title, it was a strong second-half by Mount Union that surged the Purple Raiders past Baldwin-Wallace, winning their 100th consecutive road game in a 41-13 defeat over the Yellow Jackets at George Finnie Stadium in Berea.

With the win, Mount Union earned at least a share of its 19th-straight conference title (22nd overall). The win also gets the Purple Raiders an automatic bid into the NCAA Division III playoffs.

Before the game, the teams couldn’t contain their excitement and had to be separated after a pre-game scuffle took place. The intensity carried on and the first quarter brought plenty of action as both teams scored two touchdowns each and the game was knotted up at 13.

Midview’s Josiah Holt returned the opening kickoff 45 yards, but a B-W penalty backed the ball back to the 20-yard line. After three-straight runs by Tim Miker, quarterback Ryan O’Rourke went to the air, throwing a 50-yard touchdown bomb to Kevin Johnson to take an early 7-0 lead. That was the largest deficit Mount Union has had all season.

"We felt good about ourselves scoring in the first try," B-W head coach John Snell said. "We’re not in it for moral victories. We wanted to come away with a win. We did a lot of good things. The game seemed closer than what the score indicates, but we wanted to win."

Mount Union wasted no time as Cecil Shorts returned the ensuing kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown to knot the score quickly at 7.

"That was the biggest play of the game right there," Mount Union head coach Larry Kehres said. "(Shorts) is an irreplaceable player. When he’s playing, the game changes for the defense. He’s a huge factor."

Shorts was making a return after missing four weeks with an ankle injury.

"Four weeks not playing was killing me inside," said Shorts, who led Mount Union with three touchdowns. "I just wanted to get back out there and contribute in some type of way for the team."

O’Rourke was intercepted on the next possession by Jordan and although Mount Union had a nice drive going, a Jeremy Murray 18-yard run went for naught as he fumbled at the 2-yard line. B-W’s Brandon Russo recovered the fumble to halt the drive.

Mount Union’s defense then stopped the Yellow Jackets to a three-and-out before Seaman delivered a jump ball to Miller, who caught the touchdown in the back of the end zone. B-W blocked the extra-point attempt by Elyria's Tyler Almeida as Mount Union led, 13-7.

After a 49-yard kickoff return by Kevin Johnson, O’Rourke orchestrated a 6-play 50-yard drive that was capped off by a Miker 1-yard TD run. Kicker Brad Pollock’s PAT went wide left and that tied the score at 13 at the 1:18 mark of the first quarter. The TD was Miker’s seventh of the season.

After a B-W defensive stop late in the second quarter, Mount Union caught a break when Ryan Dugan fumbled a punt near the 10-yard line. Quarterback Neal Seaman made the Yellow Jackets pay on the first play, throwing a 12-yard TD pass to Kyle Miller for a 20-13 lead.

The momentum carried forward as Mount Union mounted a 6-play, 71-yard drive to open up the second half, capped off by Shorts’ third touchdown of the game. Seaman delivered a 16-yard TD pass to the back of the end zone and Shorts hauled it in. After an Almeida extra-point, Mount Union grabbed a 27-13 lead.

B-W had a chance to cut the two-touchdown deficit to seven late in the third quarter, but on fourth-down-and-inches, O’Rourke pitched to Miker, who attempted to throw in the end zone to Aaron Manders, but two Purple Raider defenders were there to break it up.

Mount Union’s defense held the Yellow Jackets scoreless for the last three quarters and recorded six sacks and three interceptions. Lambert Budzinski picked up sacks on back-to-back plays. Charles Dieuseul also added three sacks.

"We wanted to keep that bend, but don’t break mentality," Budzinski said. "We knew it was going to be a tight game. The score doesn’t reflect how physical and how hard hitting the game really was. In the second half, we didn’t make a lot of changes. We just stuck to our game plan and went with what we knew and what we expected them to do and it really payed off."

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