ALLIANCE, Ohio -- The road to the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl and the NCAA Division III football championship typically runs through Alliance, Ohio, and the University of Mount Union, but the 2016 season has proven to be anything but the norm.
After losing to Ohio Athletic Conference rival John Carroll University in the final week of the regular season, the Purple Raiders had to wait for an at-large bid into the tournament and will begin the quest for their 13th national championship on the road for the first time since 1994.
“It was a much different 24 hours following our last game, just the unknown,” Mount Union coach Vince Kehres said. “The word down in our locker room and our mission statement is ‘Hope.’ We were hopeful that we’d get in, but certainly preparing ourselves for the worst-case scenario. We’re glad to keep playing, correct some mistakes and get a chance to right it out on the field.
“It’s a very exciting time. We were on the bubble, didn’t know if we would get in or not and had to wait it out there until they announced the selections. I think our coaching staff and players are just excited for the opportunity to play in Week 11 and get back out there. It’ll be good to play again.”
Having won 12 national championships since the start of the 1993 season, the Purple Raiders are used to winning the OAC title and claiming an automatic bid into the postseason tournament, but a loss to the Blue Streaks broke a 112-game regular-season winning streak.
As such, Mount Union will go on the road for the first its first true postseason road game since 1996 and a first-round game for the first time in 22 years.
“I was a player in both of those games, made those trips, and it’s fun to go to a new place, experience a different setting and play a football game,” Kehres said. “Our players, I think, always kind of look forward to trips when they go on them, especially non-conference in a place you haven’t been to before.
“We make that an experience for them, and historically, we’ve played pretty well on the road. We’re just glad to be in the field and excited about the opportunity to play.”
Although the Purple Raiders enter the postseason on the heels of a loss for the first time in more than two decades, they do so with the mindset that today’s game at Hobart College is no different than any other they have played during the regular season.
“Week 11 won’t be any different from Week 10, Week 9, Week 8,” Kehres said. “We call that the grind, and really embracing the grind and doing the little things. The little things add up, and they usually lead to success on Saturdays.”