Sept. 4, 2009

By Amy Farnum

No. 9 Wesley and No. 20 Christopher Newport will battle in the lone Top 25 clash of week as Division III football gets into gear Sept. 5.  The game is the first meeting between the two schools that were set to open the 2008 season against each other, but the contest was canceled due to Tropical Storm Hanna.

The Wolverines and Captains have combined for 11 NCAA appearances since the 2000 season, and both were Division III playoff participants in 2008.

Offensively, both squads have their star players returning to the field.  Wesley junior quarterback Shane McSweeny is back under center after turning in the nation’s second-highest pass efficiency rating of 181.17 in 2008.  Last year’s Atlantic Central Football Conference Offensive Player of the Year tossed 18 touchdowns, while getting picked off only four times. 

CNU All-American running back Tunde Ogun – the 2008 USA South Offensive Player of the Year – returns for his senior season after setting school and league records with 1,794 rushing years last year. 

The matchup of nationally-ranked opponents in Dover, Del., kicks off at 1 p.m.

ROAD TRIP:  Whitworth will start the 2009 season with a tough road test as the Pirates visit fifth-ranked Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, on Sept. 5 at 1 p.m.  It will be the first time the Pirates will play a contest in the state of Texas, and marks the longest trip (1,775 miles) the program has ever made for a football game.

"We look forward to this game because it’s an opportunity to play one of the best programs in the country and it will be a great gauge for our guys and where we hope to be once conference play begins,” said Whitworth head coach John Tully. “Like all outstanding teams, they have special players and are well-coached."

Whitworth is looking to carry its momentum from the end of last season into 2009.  After starting 2-3, the Pirates posted four consecutive victories finish 6-3.   They will once again look to senior running back Adam Anderson, who led Division III in all-purpose yards per game (243.8) in 2008, and set a school record with 25 touchdowns.  Anderson has been selected the Northwest Conference MVP in each of the last two seasons.

For Hardin-Simmons, all eyes will be on senior quarterback Justin Feaster, who was voted the 2009 American Southwest Conference Preseason Offensive Player of the Year.  He connected on 229-of-331 passes for 3,023 yards and 31 TDs with just eight interceptions in 2008, and also ran for eight scores.

PURPLE HAZE:  When you talk about Division III football, there’s one team you just cannot leave out.  Top-ranked and defending NCAA champion Mount Union opens its 112th season of football at St. John Fisher College in Pittsford, N.Y., on Sept. 5 at 4 p.m.

The Purple Raiders return 17 starters from a 2008 team that went 15-0, while collecting its 20th Ohio Athletic Conference title and 10th Division III Championship.  However, Mount Union must replace four All-Americans, including running back Nate Kmic and quarterback Greg Micheli.  Kmic is college football’s all-time leading rusher with 8,074 yards, while Micheli is college football’s leader in career passer rating at 197.4. Senior quarterback Kurt Rocco will make his first collegiate start after completing 80 percent of his passes in a backup role over the last two years, while senior tailback Terrance Morring returns from sitting out last year with an injury.

St. John Fisher has advanced to the NCAA playoffs in two of the last three seasons, and met the Purple Raiders both times, falling 26-14 in the 2006 semifinals and 52-10 in the 2007 quarterfinals.  The two teams also met in last year’s season opener, which Mount Union won 33-3.

The Cardinals welcome back 14 starters, including junior quarterback Tim Bailey, who threw for 2,600 yards and 21 touchdowns last year.  His first start was against the Purple Raiders last season.

Mount Union has won 21 straight season openers dating back to a 17-15 loss at home to The College of Wooster on Sept. 12, 1987. That loss is Larry Kehres’ only opening day loss as he is 22-1 as head coach. The Purple Raiders also enter the contest with a 33-game regular season winning streak.