Last year’s rout by Mount Union a rallying cry for Wesley

Wesley football-Mount Union 2014 by .

Wesley’s Brenton Barnes (95) and Aamir Petrose chase Mount Union quarterback Kevin Burke in last year’s semifinal game. (Wesley sports information photo)

DOVER — For a defensive player, it was all just so stunning.

Only 30 minutes into its NCAA Division III football semifinal with Wesley College last year, Mount Union already had 56 points on the scoreboard.

By the end of the third quarter, the Purple Raiders had 70.

“Honestly, we were shocked,” said Wolverines senior safety Craig Pettit. “It was like you were bleeding and you couldn’t stop it. They were hitting us from all angles. We had no idea how to stop it, where it was coming from.

“You try to plug up the holes and fix it … They were just the better team that day.”

On Saturday, No. 11 Wesley (11-1) will return to the scene of the crime — Mount Union Stadium in Alliance, Ohio — to take on the top-ranked Purple Raiders (12-0) again at noon in the Division III quarterfinals.

To be fair, one of Mount Union’s 10 touchdowns in last year’s rout came on an interception return — one of six Wesley turnovers in the contest.
But 70 points is 70 points.

So while the Wolverines say they’ve put that 70-21 loss behind them, they also admit it became something of a rallying cry in the offseason.

“Throughout the year, we’ve been talking about … ‘Hey, it was 70-0 (in the third quarter),’” said Pettit. “We’ve got to work harder to make sure stuff like that doesn’t happen again.”

“We worked all off-season to get back to this point and here we are again,” said senior defensive tackle Brenton Barnes. “We have a chance. We’re a great group of guys.”

The Purple Raiders finished with 602 yards in last year’s game — only 76 more than the Wolverines. QB Kevin Burke, who has since graduated, threw for 415 yards and seven touchdowns.

After allowing an average of just 26 points in its first two meetings with Mount Union, Wesley has now given up 66 points per game in its last two contests. The Purple Raiders currently own Division III’s top scoring offense at 54.9 points per game.

Wesley coach Mike Drass, who is also the Wolverines’ defensive coordinator, blames himself for what happened last year.

“Defensively, I did a bad job as a coach,” he said. “We were too vanilla. You had the best quarterback in the country last year (Burke) and he was able to pick us apart. We didn’t do a good job. We thought we were doing a couple things based on what they were doing but we out-thought ourselves.

“You get in a game like this and you can’t overcoach. If there’s anything I learned from that. … and I say that without taking anything away from Mount Union. They won fair and square and kicked our butt. But we didn’t help ourselves at all.’

Family ties

Joe Callahan’s grandfather was a pretty good football player back in the day.

But baseball was the elder Callahan’s best sport.

“He was a pitcher so I guess that’s where I got my arm from,” said the Wesley quarterback.

Callahan recently lost his grandfather, also named Joe, when he passed away in Florida.

The elder Callahan made it up to the Wolverines’ game against Kean on Oct. 17 when his grandson threw his 100th career touchdown pass.
Callahan, a finalist for the Gagliardi Trophy, said his grandfather always kept track of his stats.

“That was pretty tough,” Callahan said about his grandfather’s death. “He was a huge fan of mine and a huge fan of Wesley football because of it.
He liked listening to them (the Wolverines’ games) on the radio.

“I’d call him after every game and he’d tell me where I was compared to other people in the nation. He was the big stats guy in our family. He really kept everybody up to date with the records that I broke this year.”

The elder Callahan would be proud to know that his grandson still leads Division III in passing yards per game (390.8) and touchdown passes this season (51).

Extra points

Mount Union, which is making its 24th straight playoff appearance, is 222-9 overall since 2000. … The 11-time national-champion Purple Raiders have won 93 straight home games since 2005. … Wesley’s James Okike and Bryce Shade have 17 TD receptions each this season. … Running back Jamar Baynard also has scored 17 touchdowns, with 16 on the ground. The three players are tied for the team lead in scoring.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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