Jeannette native vying for D-III football title with Mount Union
There's one game left in Pat Mahoney's college career and it's the most important game of them all.
Mahoney, a Jeannette native, is the starting right guard on the University of Mount Union football team that will play for a NCAA Division III national championship tomorrow, when it takes on Wisconsin-Whitewater in the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl.
The contest will be played at Salem Stadium in Salem, Va.; kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. and the game will be broadcast live on ESPNU and ESPN3.
Since the moment last season ended in a 52-14 Stagg Bowl loss to Whitewater, Mahoney, who is a Greensburg Central Catholic graduate, has maintained the goal of ending his career by winning the national championship this season.
“That's been my goal since I came to Mount Union, to win as many national championships as possible. We've had three opportunities, and we got one,” Mahoney said of his team's title in 2012. “Now I want to finish things off with another and go out my senior season as a national champion.”
To say the Purple Raiders enter the Stagg Bowl with momentum would be a massive understatement.
Mount Union took on Wesley (Del.) Saturday in what was, in theory, supposed to be a meeting between two of the top four teams in Division III.
Instead, it was one of the most lopsided victories of the season for Mount Union, a team that specializes in lopsided wins, as the Raiders destroyed Wilmington 70-21.
It was Mount Union's 85th straight home victory, but it was among the most impressive because of the status of the opponent, the No. 4 ranked team in the country.
“Throughout the year, we've been trying to put a full game together and execute in every aspect of the game and we did that,” said Mahoney.
Mount Union jumped out to a 56-0 halftime lead and cruised from there.
Mahoney and the offensive line allowed Mount Union quarterback Kevin Burke to throw 415 yards.
He threw seven touchdowns and ran for another score.
“I was talking to my roommate (Burke) and we were saying to each other that we never thought, in the national semifinals, we'd be pulled out of the game in the middle of the third quarter so our second team could play,” he said.
The Purple Raiders are now 14-0 and ranked No. 2 in the country; this will be their 18th appearance in the Division III national championship game.
Their opponent tomorrow is a familiar one in No. 1 Ranked Whitewater, also 14-0.
The two teams have met in the national championship game nine times in the past 10 years.
The one time in that span they did not meet was during the 2012 season, when Mount Union took the national crown by beating St. Thomas.
Mount Union played Whitewater in the Stagg Bowl in 2011 and 2013, dropping both games, making those the only two losses of Mahoney's career.
“Following the other games (during the playoffs), I wanted to play Whitewater,” said Mahoney, pointing to last year's loss.
“We want to get back at those guys for beating us last year.
“Just the fact that they scored so many points on us in the national championship game is extra motivation. There is a revenge factor.”
Before Mahoney was with the program, Mount Union beat Whitewater for the crown in 2005, 2006 and 2008; Whitewater has taken the tile in wins over Mount Union in 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2013.
Those five victories account for all of Whitewater's national titles.
Overall, Mount Union has a record 11 Division III national championships.
The 2014 version of Whitewater looks as dominant as ever.
The Warhawks are undefeated and ranked in the country.
They won the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title this season, and they advanced to the Stagg Bowl with narrow 20-14 win over Linfield last weekend.
“We are peaking at the right time of the year,” said Mahoney. “We're ready.”
Gregory off to good start
On the basketball court, Jeannette grad Ciara Gregory, a 5-foot-7 sophomore guard the University of Charlotte, entered the week fifth on the team in scoring with 41 points through eight games (a 5.1 per game average).
Gregory is also second on the team in three-pointers with 11.
The 49ers got off to a 2-6 start this season.
They continue with nonconference games through the rest of December before embarking on play in Division I Conference USA.
Brian Knavish is a contributing writer.