Mount Union gearing up for 19th straight Div. III national semifinals appearance

It’s mid-December, and the University of Mount Union is still playing football.

Happens every year.

The Div. III national semifinals are this weekend and No. 1 Mount Union hosts No. 4 North Central (Ill.) in the first meeting between the schools. It’s North Central’s first Final Four appearance and Mount Union’s 19th straight appearance.

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(David Richard/USA TODAY Sports)

The winner of Mount Union-North Central plays either No. 3 Mary Hardin-Baylor or No. 5 Wisconsin-Whitewater next Friday in the Stagg Bowl in Salem, Va., for the national championship. All four semifinalists are 13-0 this season.

Mount Union and Wisconsin-Whitewater played in seven straight Stagg Bowls from 2005-2011 with Whitewater winning four and Mount Union winning three. The Purple Raiders won last year’s Stagg Bowl, 28-10, over St. Thomas (Minn.) and carry a national-best 28-game win streak into this weekend’s game.

Last year’s Stagg Bowl was the final game for Mount Union coach Larry Kehres, who announced his retirement last spring after winning his 11th national title. His son, Vince, moved from defensive coordinator to head coach.

Mount Union junior quarterback Kevin Burke is one four finalists for the Gagliardi Trophy, the Div. III equivalent to the Heisman. That will be awarded next week.

Speaking further to the long-term success of the Mount Union machine is that Burke entered this season as the offense’s only returning starter. And here in mid-December are the Raiders, again, chasing another national championship.