Originally posted on Crystal Ball Run  |  Last updated 11/18/11

I’m back today with Part II and the conclusion of 1st Round playoff preview for the Division III level. Yesterday we took a look at all the games in the Wisconsin-Whitewater side of the bracket, today we’ll examine the Mount Union side, and see why many of their fans feel like they have the hardest path of all to make the Stagg Bowl.

Mary-Hardin Baylor v. Redlands

When Mary-Hardin has the ball…

Mary-Hardin Baylor features a potent rushing attack led RB Darius Wilson whose status is unclear after missing last weekend’s regular season finale. In his place stepped RB Caleb Moore who has been very good this year as Wilson’s backup. Moore has carried the ball 59 times for 473 yards, and eight scores. QB LiDarral Bailey has added 504 of his own rushing yards this season but there is no doubt that losing Wilson’s 1,119 yards and 13 TD’s would be a big blow to MHB’s national title aspirations. Redlands will counter with the 46th ranked rushing defense, which allows only 117 yards per game. LB Jordan Garcia will be the main man trying to stop the vaunted MHB rushing attack. He has been a force in trying to stop the run this year. Garcia shows off good instincts and does a good job staying clean in traffic so that he can make a play on the ball carrier.

When Redlands has the ball…

If you want to talk about balanced offenses, nobody in Division III is more balanced than Redlands. They average 211.11 yards per game on the ground and 212.78 through the air. That kind of balance is nearly impossible to try and achieve, but it speaks to their ability to beat you in multiple ways. The whole offense is predicated upon QB Chad Hurst’s ability to use both his arm and legs to pick up yards. Hurst has been a one man army for Redlands this year, accounting for 2,560 total yards from scrimmage, and 27 total touchdowns.  Much like Hurst has been a one man army for Redlands, MHB has their own stand out player on defense. DB Javiez Jones leads MHB in sacks (5.5), tackles for loss (11.5), tackles (105), and interceptions (2). You can expect to see Hurst and Jones on a collision course more than just a few times on Saturday.

The Pick…

I have to go with MHB. If the status of Wilson was a little more definitive than I would pick them big, but without him I think game could be closer than MHB fans want it to be.

Trinity (TX) v. McMurry


When Trinity (TX) has the ball…

Trinity is going to try and go old school on the high powered McMurry attack. They know that McMurry would love nothing more than a fast paced shoot out because their offense is more than equipped to not only handle that but flourish with it. I expect for Trinity to come out and try and take the wind out of McMurry’s sails a bit. They will likely give the ball to RB Patrick Granchelli more often than not on that first drive and if they can put together three or four first downs in a row they may get McMurry back onto their heels. This could allow for QB Nykolas McKissic to hit some big throws down the field and really get McMurry reeling. DL Corey Hall is going to be the man who will try and do something about the nation’s 103rd ranked rush defense. Hall has shown a consistent ability to get into the offensive backfield this year and make plays (12.5 TFL). If he can stop Granchelli a few times and give his offense the ball then this game could get ugly quickly.

When McMurry has the ball...

Anytime you have a QB the caliber of Jake Mullin all you need to do is give him the ball and get open. McMurry features the top passing offense in the entire country averaging over 369 yards per game through the air. They have two dynamic WR’s in Delfonte Diamond and RJ Long, who have caught a combined 110 passes for 1,465 yards and scored 19 TD’s. Long is getting some looks from NFL scouts and could use a big game to increase his stock. Trying to shut them down will be DB’s Tyler Barrett and Ben Robinson for Trinity. Barrett is the ball hawk of Trinity secondary having picked off six passes and deflected four others. Robinson is considered a good safety that will be providing over the top coverage for the times that Mullin tries to really air it out.

The Pick…

I don’t think Trinity is going to be able stick with their running game long enough to stick with McMurry who can score on literally any play. Jake Mullin and his high powered offensive attack will be too much in this one.

Linfield v. Cal Lutheran

When Linfield has the ball…

In what will be a rematch from Week 1 of the regular season, Linfield and Cal Lutheran will meet with Linfield looking do the double v. Cal and send them home for the remainder of the postseason.

In the first matchup it was Linfield’s rushing game with RB Josh Hill that was dominant as Hill ran for 164 yards and scored twice in the 24-14 victory. Expect Linfield to again turn to Hill but should he struggle at all they will be quick to get back to what is comfortable and that’s the ball in QB Mickey Inns hands. The matchup to watch will be DB Justin Hauley-Bateman v. WR Lucas Jepsen. Jepson is one of Inns top targets with eight TD’s on the year but he was held to only one catch by Hauley-Bateman and Hauley-Bateman came away with a big INT as well. It will be interesting to see if Hauley-Bateman can have a repeat performance or if Jepsen can get the upper hand.

When Cal Lutheran has the ball…

Cal Lutheran will hope to establish the run in this game, which they were unable to do in their first meeting with Linfield. In that game leading rusher Daniel Mosier was only able to gain 55 yards which is far below his season average of 102.7. If Cal Lutheran can get Mosier going then it should help to loosen up the coverage and give WR Eric Rogers some opportunities to make some plays down the field. Rogers had four receptions and a TD in Week 1 but Cal will hope for him to become an even bigger factor in this game. Linfield will look to put pressure on the Cal Lutheran QB all night long. They lead the nation in sacks with 4.44 per game and will count on DL Tyler Steele (9 sacks) to provide the majority of the pressure. The defender to watch though is DB Drew Fisher, he had an INT in their week one match-up and on the season has 56 tackles, 8.5 TFL, .5 sacks, 4 INT’s, and 3 PBU’s.

The Pick…

I’ll take Linfield to complete the sweep in this one. I think their ability to put pressure on the QB combined with the playmakers they have on both sides of the ball will be too much for Cal.

Wesley v. Hobart

When Wesley has the ball…

QB Shane McSweeny is the man to watch for Wesley, he is another one of these dual-threat QB’s who can beat you with his legs or his arm and Hobart will have to be ready for both. McSweeny’s total rushing yards may not be that impressive (263) but his 10 touchdown rushes speak to his ability to find pay dirt. On top of that you put McSweeny’s 18:4 TD:INT ratio throwing the football and you see just how dangerous he can be. Wesley will also rely on the legs of Askia Jahad to tote the rock. Jahad won’t blow you away with his numbers but he’s a very consistent back who is able to pick up tough yards. Defensively the focus will be on DL Tyre Coleman. Coleman has been a nightmare to try and block this season. He has 12.5 sacks and 17.5 TFL this season so far and he brings great speed to beat the OT.

When Hobart has the ball…

Hobart is a defense first team whose offense is most effective when they win the field position battle. That’s not to say that they don’t have weapons because they have a very good WR/RB combo in Garth Muratori and Steven Webb. Together these two have combined for 1,040 total yards, and 12 TD’s. I look for DL Devin Hardy to bring plenty of pressure at Hobart. He’s been very good bringing pressure all year long so far and I’m not sure Hobart has the OT’s to neutralize him. Also watch for DB Dakevis Howard to try and capitalize on any possible mistakes Hobart makes throwing the football. He has four INT’s and 5 PBU’s on the year.

The Pick…

I honestly don’t feel good about this one either way but I struggle to go with a team that depends so much on their defense to set the table for them. With that in mind I’ll take Wesley.

Wabash v. Illinois College

When Wabash has the ball…

Much like Hobart, Wabash is another team that depends on its defense shutting down their opponent and leaving them with good field position to play with. Once the defense gives the ball to the offense the onus falls to QB Chase Belton to make something happen with it. Belton’s 18 passing touchdowns and 8 rushing touchdowns show you while he will be the focus of the Illinois College defense. LB Jake DeFauw will be the main defender asked to stop Belton. DeFauw isn’t the most athletic option at LB but he should do well to help limit Belton’s ability to get out of the pocket and make plays with his feet. If Belton is forced to throw he has a couple of really good options to throw to in Jonathan Horn and Wes Chamblee, combined these WR’s have gone over 1,200 yards on the season with 13 of Belton’s 18 TD’s.

When Illinois College has the ball…

RB Cecil Brimmage is the workhorse back for Illinois College, he has picked up 1,062 yards on 143 carries and scored 10 times. He has, however, been outscored by RB Matt Williamson who has 11 TD’s on only 73 carries. Combined these two are a deadly rushing combo for any team to go up against. On the outside Illinois College also features one of the top receivers from the Midwest Conference in Brock Thompson. Thompson has 895 yards and 12 TD’s on the year and relies on his athletic ability to turn short passes into big gains. We expect to see a very active Pat Clegg for the Wabash defense as they try and shut down the Illinois College rushing attack. Clegg excels at shooting gaps and getting into the backfield to make a stop (15.5 TFL).

The Pick…

Like the Wesley v. Hobart game, I don’t have a strong feeling either way in this one. I’ll take Wabash in the end because of the dual threat Belton gives them along with having two options on the outside to make plays.

North Central v. Dubuque

When North Central has the ball…

North Central very well may have my favorite player in these entire playoffs in TE Kyle Fiedorowicz. The 6’7 monster at TE has already attracted NFL scouts because of his size and athleticism. He actually leads the North Central passing attack with 22 catches for 339 yards and seven TD’s. Fiedorowicz is at his best when he can use his size in the red-zone to post up defenders. The reason Fiedorowicz low receiving totals lead the team is because North Central is more of a strong rushing team. RB Nick Kukus leads the way with 957 yards and eight TD’s. Fiedorowicz simply gives North Central that extra element on 3rd and shot or down near the goal line. Dubuque’s chances at stopping the North Central rushing attack with center around the ability of DL Stephen Vassalatti to get off his blocks and make plays.

When Dubuque has the ball…

Dubuque isn’t the kind of team that is going to try and rock you to sleep with the running game before trying to hit you deep, they are just going to come right out and try it, and why not? When you have the top WR in all Division III on your roster in Michael Zweifel I’d come out throwing every down too. Truth be told though, even though the numbers heavily their passing offense Dubuque actually has one heck of a running back in Justin Spalding who has run for over 1,200 yards and has scored 13 TD’s. North Central presents a very tough challenge coming in as the 16th ranked total defense allowing only 254 yards per game and just over 10 points.

The Pick…

I may love Fiedorowicz’s name but I love the way Dubuque plays football. Plus I can live with rooting for a guy named Zweifel if I lose Fiedorowicz.

Centre v. Hampden-Sydney

When Centre has the ball…

Centre features a running back by committee approach to offense that thus far has averaged about 189 yards per game on the ground. Their two feature backs are Jonathan Pinque and Monte Scotton who have together gone for 1,465 yards and 21 TD’s on the ground for Centre. QB Tyler Osterman has chipped in another 221 yards on the ground but it’s been his smart decision making in the passing game that has led to much of Centre’s success. Osterman sports a 13:3 TD:INT ratio on the season and has thrown for just over 1,500 yards on the year. DB Zach Morgan will hope to maybe add a few more INT’s to both he and Osterman’s totals. Morgan has been a ball hawk in the secondary for Hampden-Sydney collecting seven interceptions on the year.

When Hampden-Sydney has the ball…

You may not know who WR Kyle Vance is but you’re going to want to. He’s on the radar of several NFL teams and he’s been blessed with fantastic size and speed. He has been a dominant force this season in Division III hauling in 93 passes for 1,288 yards, and 14 TD’s. Vance is dominant down the field and I expect Centre to use DB Kent Crick is an effort to bracket cover Vance. Other teams have tried that in the past and it hasn’t worked though. Also you can’t forget about RB Kirk Rohle if you’re Centre, the often overlooked RB has had a big year this year rushing for just under 1,000 yards (968) and reaching pay dirt 14 times.

The Pick…

I’m taking Hampden-Sydney to roll here. I don’t think Centre can cover Vance or stop Rohle and if you can’t do one of the two, let alone both, then you don’t stand a chance.

Mount Union v. Benedictine

When Mount Union has the ball…

Benedictine has one hope for stopping Mount Union offensive and that hope is named Ben Lockton. Lockton has been nearly impossible to block this season and has made an incredibly 23 stops in the backfield so far this season. Mount Union features a dynamic running attack led by RB Jeremy Murray but if Lockton can shut him down then Benedictine could have a shot. Shutting down Murray is not going to be an easy task. Murray has rushed for 1,322 yards and 18 TD’s this season so far and has shown no signs of slowing down. Mount Union also has an alternative weapon on the outside in Jasper Collins who has 543 receiving yards on 38 catches and nine TD’s.

When Benedictine has the ball…

Benedictine, like Mount Union, would like nothing more than to establish their running game early and base the rest of their offense off of that. RB John Borsellino has had a great year thus far with 1,275 yards and 17 TD’s. However Mount Union’s incredible defense will likely go a long way to stopping that run game. They come in with the 4th ranked rush defense, number one ranked total defense and top ranked scoring defense. Mount Union is only allowing a total of 172 yards a game on the ground and is allowing just over a touchdown per game to their opponents. If that doesn’t scare you then watch their LB Nick Driskill play. Driskill is an absolute animal on the field with 81 tackles, 14.5 TFL, and 4 INT’s. He is always around the ball and loves to hit people.

The Pick…

In the end I’m so confident in this pick that I’m pretty sure Mount Union could spot Benedictine two touchdowns and still win by double digits. That’s not to say Benedictine is bad because they aren’t they busted their butts and made the playoffs but Mount Union is just that good.

Matthew C. Elder will be covering the Division II and Division III Playoffs for Crystal Ball Run all postseason long.

Follow him on Twitter @MatthewCElder.


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