Originally written on Crystal Ball Run  |  Last updated 11/13/14

As we head into this weekend, we know the question that everyone is asking themselves. We know that everybody wants to know if it can happen again. Is it even possible for something that rare to happen that many times in a row? We are only one round of football and 48 hours away from finding out the answer to that very question.

If you aren’t aware of what I’m talking about then let me explain it. For six consecutive years both Mount Union or Wisconsin-Whitewater have made the Division III National Championship in Salem, Va. Each is only one game away from making it seven straight. Can they do it? Here is the breakdown.

UW-Whitewater v. St. Thomas

 

Alright I’ll admit it, I prematurely gave UWW an eulogy that wasn’t exactly accurate. They beat Salisbury rather handedly winning by 20 points. Meanwhile St. Thomas has been flexing its defensive muscles this post season winning by an average margin of 36 points and not allowing more than 10 points all postseason. Can they sustain that and put a whooping on the Warhawks?

There is a perfect word to describe an offense like the one UWW has and that word is ‘machine’ they run their offense like its well oiled, perfectly tuned, 1968 Shelby GTO. It purrs like a kitten all game long and just keeps on rolling and rolling. Most of that is thanks to star RB Levell Coppage who is only 81 yards shy of topping 2,000 for the year, let me allow that to sink in for you…yes 2,000 yards. Here are some names to help you put that into perspective Marcus Allen, Ladainan Tomlinson, Matt Forte, and oh yea some guy named Barry Sanders. Here’s the kicker though, this will be Coppage’s third time eclipsing 2,000 yards. Aside from the obvious threat Coppage brings to this game St. Thomas is going to have to be concerned with QB Matt Blanchard. Blanchard has been extremely efficient thus far going 34 of 49 for 443 yards and three TD’s. His ability to make key throws and keep the defense honest has been a big part of what makes this offense so tough to defend. You would think that with how effective Cop
page is it wouldn’t take much of a passing attack but Blanchard has thrown for over 2,500 yards and they have a 1,000 yard WR in Tyler Huber. Attempting to stop and disrupt this offense will be a defensive team that hasn’t allowed more than 57 yards rushing in a game yet these playoffs. Led by DL Alex Williams this defense is playing like something fierce right now. Williams has particularly raised his game to a new level as he has made 7.5 TFL and five sacks in the past three games alone. Chipping in has been LB Tony Danna whose 16 tackles have been key in helping to clean up whatever Williams hasn’t gotten to in the backfield.

Not to be outdone by Coppage and the Warhawks rushing attack St. Thomas brings their own potent rushing option to the table in RB Colin Tobin. Through three games this postseason Tobin has run for 605 yards, and scored seven times. Tobin’s ability to pick up hurt chunks of yardage has only made the play of WR Fritz Waldvogel all the more dangerous on the outside. Waldvogel is averaging just under 110 yards per game and over 18 yards per catch in the post-season. He will definitely be a player to keep an eye on especially given the match-up he’ll draw going up against CB Noah Timm. Timm has made a big play in ever game thus far this post-season. He has 2 INT’s and 2 FF’s so far and has made at least one of these two turnover inducing plays in each game. His ability to create turnovers and possible take away St. Thomas’s biggest receiving threat could be huge in terms of how this game ends up.

In the end you’d think Id be more willing to roll on back to the Wisconsin-Whitewater bandwagon, hop back on and make them my pick. However  that’s just not the way I do things. St. Thomas has stopped every offense it has face thus yet dead in its tracks. While none of those offenses have had the weapons that UWW has, they have also not see an offense like St. Thomas. This game could go down as an epic one and I’m taking the Tommies.

Wesley v. Mount Union

One team was always supposed to be here while the other has come as a bit of a surprise to many. In a battle that many will see as new school v. old, Wesley will travel to Alliance, OH to take on the Purple Raiders of Mount Union.

Wesley comes into this game firing on all cylinders coming off a rather surprising victory over Mary Hardin-Baylor in the previous round. QB Shane McSweeny is on a run of games that has seen him find the end zone 15 times and dominate his opponents. McSweeny has gone 49 of 71 for 948 yards and 12 TD’s through three games all while running for an additional 349 yards and two more scores. He has done an excellent job of finding his two biggest weapons in TE Sean McAndrew and WR Steven Koudoss. Both of these players has caught at least one touchdown pass in every playoff game this season and they have proved to be a deadly combination working inside and out. McAndrew is masterful in the red-zone and against zone coverage, of his seven catches four of them have been for TD’s. WR Steven Koudoss has been explosive on the outside catching five touchdowns and going for 331 yards on just 12 receptions for an average of 27.5 ypc. Where or even how you start to slow down this attack will be a question for Mount Union and
its top ranked passing defense to answer.

Coming into this game the Purple Raiders are allowing an average of only 113.62 yards per game through the air, McSweeny hasn’t been held to under 250 yards in these playoffs. For the Raiders to stop Wesley they will have to rely on the play of DE Charles Dieusel and SS Nick Driskill. Dieusel has to continue to bring the pressure that he has brought all season long with his 8.5 sacks and 18.5 TFL. He will be key in trying to stop McSweeny before he can get started. If he can’t get to him it will be up to Driskill who leads the team in tackles (92), INT’s (4), and is second in TFL (16) to make plays both in coverage and in run support.

Talk about QB issues in Alliance, the Purple Raiders have had more bad luck at the position over the past twelve months than any team I know. Last year they lost starter Neal Seaman in the middle of the playoff run and had to finish out their impressive run with their back-up QB Matt Poloto who performed marvelously. Fast forward to this year and just last weekend in the quarterfinals not only did Piloto go down but so did his back up Neal Seaman. Mount Union was forced to turn to their third string QB in Kevin Burke and their fate currently lies with him. We don’t know what the exact status of Burke and Seaman are heading into this game but we do know what they will do game plan wise. They are going to run and run heavy. Jeremy Murray got off to a slow start in these playoffs picking up only 83 yards through the first two games but he was back to his old self when Mount Union needed him most picking up 152 yards in last week’s win over Wabash. Trying to limit Murray and put the pressure back on Burke will
be LB Jeff Morgan and DB Dakevious Howard. Howard and Morgan have combined for 45 tackles so far in the playoffs to go along with six TFL. If they are able to keep Murray under control than they will put the onus back on a third string QB to make big time throws down the field with the shot at the National Championship hanging in the balance, no pressure.

I told myself coming into these playoffs that no matter what I wasn’t going to pick against Wisconsin-Whitewater or Mount Union but I find myself here today writing that I’m going to do exactly that. Mount Union has struggled offensively in the playoffs and the magic appears to have finally run out. I’ll take Wesley and their high powered offense to give us the first Stagg Bowl in seven years to not feature Mount Union or Wisconsin-Whitewater.

For his insights on all things small school football, please visit Matthew Elder on Twitter @MatthewCElder.

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