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Mt. Union thumps Washington & Jefferson

ALLIANCE, Ohio — From the pregame warm-ups to the post-game cool-down, Washington & Jefferson was mesmerized by the Mt. Union mystique.

Predictably, the Presidents never had a chance.

With 10 Division III championships to its credit, defending champion Mt. Union asserted itself early and often, scoring on its first seven possessions, and the top-ranked Purple Raiders rolled to a 55-0 victory in an NCAA Division III first-round playoff game Saturday.

Mt. Union outgained W&J in total yards, 581-127, including an eye-popping 400-18 first-half edge in taking a 41-0 halftime lead.

It was the first shutout loss for No. 13 W&J since 1990, a span of 215 games.

"They just took the ball and shoved it down our throat," said W&J coach Mike Sirianni, a Mt. Union alum who played wide receiver on the Purple Raiders' first national championship team in 1993.

Sirianni, in his seventh season as coach of W&J, also was part of two other national titles at Mt. Union as an assistant in 1997 and 1998.

"We didn't say much to each other afterwards," Mt. Union coach Larry Kehres said. "I know how much of a competitor Mike is. We'll talk later on."

Sirianni, who has led W&J to six consecutive playoff appearances, played and coached at Mt. Union under Kehres, who took over the program in 1986 and compiled a 286-21-3 record, including 11-0 this season.

Quarterback Kurt Rocco completed 14 of 19 passes for 251 yards and two touchdowns, and Terrance Morring and Scott Panchik each rushed for more than 100 yards to power Mt. Union, which advances to a second-round game Saturday against No. 25 Montclair State.

Rocco threw touchdown passes of 25 and 55 yards to Cecil Shorts on the Purple Raiders' first and fourth possessions.

Morring gained 123 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns on runs of 16 and 4 yards. Panchik, a senior from Highlands High School, finished with 102 yards rushing and scored on runs of 4, 9 and 9 yards.

Did Kehres expect such a dominating performance against a W&J team that ranked fifth in scoring defense and eighth in total defense?

"I'd hope for it, but I didn't anticipate it," he said. "I can't remember such a good defensive start in a playoff game."

Mt. Union's defense, ranked second in both categories, registered its fourth shutout of the season and second in a row.

"All week, coach told us to try to get through the first half," said W&J defensive back Craig Sedunov, a Yough High School product who registered a team-high 12 tackles. "We've scrimmaged these guys in the past and we've hit them in the mouth. But it didn't happen today."

W&J quarterback Gino Rometo (Plum) completed 19 of 31 passes for 133 yards and no interceptions. He was sacked five times.

The Presidents finished with minus-6 yards rushing.

"They got their kids ready. I didn't," Sirianni said, shaking his head. "I'm very, very, very embarrassed how we played in the first half. The way I prepared this team, I feel bad for our seniors. But we lost eight offensive starters from last year, and to get back to the NCAA playoffs, I'll pat our guys on the back. We're a good football team. We ran into a great football team."

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