ALLIANCE, Ohio – The unbeaten football teams from Heidelberg University and the University of Mount Union went toe-to-toe in a highly anticipated showdown on a dreary Saturday afternoon inside Mount Union Stadium. The Student Princes landed the first punch, but in the end, the methodical Purple Raider attack was too much as #17 Heidelberg fell to #1 Mount Union, 33-14.
With a touchdown on the opening possession of the game, Heidelberg’s offense snapped a Mount Union shutout streak which dated back to the first game of the season. Quarterback Michael Mees (North Ridgeville) found C.J. Powell (Detroit, MI/Bishop Foley) streaking across the goal line and connected for an 11-yard touchdown pass. The play capped an 11-play 75 yard drive.
After Powell’s touchdown, the teams traded punts for the rest of the first quarter. Sophomore running back Cartel Brooks (Kokomo, IN/Galion) rushed for 70 yards in the first before a leg injury forced him to the sideline.
To open the second quarter, Mount Union faced third-and-one from the Heidelberg 8. Linebacker Dawson Gore (Bellevue) wrapped up running back Blair Skilliter in the backfield for a four yard loss. The Purple Raiders elected to go for it on fourth down, but quarterback Kevin Burke’s pass to Jasper Collins fell incomplete.
Gore finished with nine tackles, two tackles for loss and one sack.
The Purple Raiders scored their first points of the game on a 37-yard pass from Burke to tight end Shannon Stewart with 11:27 left in the second. Heidelberg (7-1, 6-1 OAC) held on to the lead when kicker Tyler Almeida hooked the extra point to the left.
Following a Heidelberg punt, Mount Union (8-0, 7-0 OAC) threatened again. On second-and-goal, Burke’s pass toward Collins in the end zone was batted in the air. Linebacker Craig Sykes (Centerburg) juggled the ball for a moment before hanging on for the interception.
Heidelberg’s momentum was short lived.
Two plays later, a pass from Mees was intercepted at the Heidelberg 41. Another two plays later, Mount Union took their first lead of the game on a 38-yard touchdown pass from Burke to Julius Moore. The ‘Berg defense stopped T. J. Lattimore’s two-point conversion attempt.
Mount Union led 12-7 at halftime.
The teams traded punts on the opening possessions of the second half.
Faced with another fourth down, the aggressiveness of Mount Union head coach Larry Kehres was rewarded as Chris Denton caught a pass from Burke, broke through a pile of Heidelberg defenders and raced to the end zone. The 29-yard touchdown and extra point put Mount Union up 19-7.
On the ensuing possession, Heidelberg faced fourth-and-two near midfield. Isaiah Scott intercepted a fade route pass from Mees intended for Donteea Dye (Fairfield).
Once again, Mount Union converted the turnover into points. Skilliter found the end zone from 22 yards out. After the extra point, Mount Union led 26-7.
Undeterred, Heidelberg drove down to the Mount Union 17 yard line. On fourth-and-seven, kicker Dan Kilger (Novi, MI) watched his 34-yard field goal attempt sail wide left.
After the missed field goal, Mount Union embarked on a 15-play 80-yard touchdown drive that took nine minutes and 30 seconds off of the clock. Burke scored on a three-yard touchdown rush.
Trailing 33-7 with less than three minutes to play, the Student Princes continued to fight. Heidelberg converted on third-and-16 from the Heidelberg 19 with a 23-yard pass to Dye. On fourth-and-10 from the Mount Union 12, Mees scrambled for a first down.
With 10 seconds left, Mees scored on a one-yard rush. Kilger’s kick finished the scoring for the contest.
“I’m really pleased that we played 60 minutes as hard as we could play,” said Heidelberg head coach Mike Hallett. “I’m very pleased with our effort and with how hard our young men played against a great Mount Union football team.”
Heidelberg sacked Burke three times on the afternoon, but did not yield a sack. Burke finished with 216 yards and three touchdowns on 13-of-17 passing. Mees threw for 173 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions on 17-of-38 passing.
Kehres saw a dramatic change in Heidelberg’s effort from a year ago.
“Last year, I don’t think they played well,” said Kehres. “I liked the way the game started. They had success against us. Slowly but surely, we came back.”
Following a postgame meeting on the field, the Student Princes exited the field at Mount Union Stadium to rousing applause from the large group of Heidelberg fans that were among the 3,211 fans in attendance.
“It’s a good day for Heidelberg,” said Hallett. “It’s not as good as it could’ve been, but it’s certainly showing progress in the team we can be.”
Heidelberg’s push toward the NCAA Division III playoffs starts next week as the team returns home for the final two regular season games.
On Saturday, Heidelberg will celebrate the 1000th varsity football game in Heidelberg history and will recognize the 40th anniversary of the 1972 football team which won the Stagg Bowl. The game against John Carroll will kick off at 1:30 p.m. on Mayer Field.