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Greensburg Catholic grad Mahoney, Mount Union fall short of national title

| Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Photo courtesy of J.T. Higgins
Pat Mahoney, a Jeannette native, played in his second national championship game earlier this week.

During his three full football seasons at the University of Mount Union, Jeannette native Pat Mahoney, the team's starting right guard, has lost only two games.

Both came against the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl (the NCAA Division III national championship game), including a 52-14 loss last Friday. It was Mount Union's worst loss since a 48-0 shutout to Wittenburg in 1974.

“They were a really good team,” Mahoney, a Greensburg Central Catholic graduate, said of Whitewater. “They were a lot better than I expected. Their front seven on defense was really good.”

The Purple Raiders, who finish 14-1, kept it close early, trailing just 21-14 at halftime, before four second half turnovers allowed Whitewater to open up the game. Whitewater quarterback Matt Behrendt was the star of the game, throwing four touchdown passes; the Warhawks' defense was also stellar in shutting down the usually explosive Mount Union offense.

“We had some problems getting the running game going and we had some problems with turnovers,” said Mahoney. “Fumbles and interceptions, those kinds of things starting going wrong for us.”

Mount Union — which has a Division III record 11 national titles to its credit — is not a team that's used to losing. In fact, this was the team's first loss since the 2011 Stagg Bowl, also against Whitewater. The two schools have become big rivals.

Like Mount Union, Whitewater is a Division III national power — winning the national title in five of the past seven years. The two teams have met in the championship game eight times in the past nine years, with Mount Union taking the crown in 2005, 2006 and 2008 and Whitewater claiming the title in 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011 and this year.

Uncharacteristically, Whitewater missed the playoffs last season, when Mount Union won the national title by beating St. Thomas.

It's those two recent losses to Whitewater that are fueling Mahoney and his teammates.

“This loss will motivate us even more, especially the guys in my class,” said Mahoney. “It's the only two losses we've had in our careers, and we want to beat them. I have no doubt we'll see them again next year in the finals, or earlier in the playoffs. Beating them would be a great way to go out in my senior year.”

While the pain of the loss is still fresh, Mahoney said and his teammates are proud of what was a very impressive season. Mount Union put to rest any thought that the program would take a step back after Larry Kehres — who had been the head coach for the previous 27 years — retired after last season's national title. His son and longtime assistant, Vince Kehres, took over and the program didn't miss a beat.

“Our coach (Vince Kehres) said after that game that he is really proud of what we accomplished,” said Mahoney. “He said, ‘you did what a lot of people didn't think you would do.' A lot of people didn't realize this is our rebuilding year, and we still ended up in the national championship game. That speaks a lot about what we accomplished and what we achieved.”

For Mahoney, there was some extra individual gratification in this season, his first as a starter.

“That makes it that much better, knowing each win I started and made a difference,” he said. “The wins mean more now.”

Brian Knavish is a contributing writer.

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