Mount Union takes familiar road to Salem
|All-Region tight end Kyle Miller got Mount Union on
the board early.
Sophomore quarterback Matt Piloto completed 17 of 32 passes for 335 yards and four touchdowns, leading the No. 2 Mount Union football team to the Stagg Bowl with its 34-14 win over 14th-ranked Bethel in an NCAA semifinal on Saturday at Mount Union Stadium.
The Purple Raiders will compete in the national championship game for the sixth consecutive year and 14th time in their history. They will take on top-ranked UW-Whitewater, 27-7 winners over No. 3 Wesley, next Saturday at Salem Stadium in Salem, Va.
Senior wide receiver Cecil Shorts III and sophomore wide receiver Jasper Collins were a key target for Piloto, who entered the game in relief of fellow sophomore quarterback Neal Seaman, who left the game with an apparent leg injury in the first quarter.
Shorts had four catches for 165 yards and one touchdown, including the go-ahead 80-yard score.
Collins finished with seven grabs for 82 yards and two touchdowns, which were the first two of his collegiate career.
Bethel (12-2) struck first on the scoreboard by turning a Purple Raider turnover into seven point
Royal defensive back Ethan Anderson intercepted a Seaman pass on the Raiders' first possession and carried the ball to Mount Union's 2-yard line. Seaman never returned.
Two plays later, Bethel quarterback Josh Aakre scored on a 1-yard run, giving the visitors their only lead.
The Raiders were unable to come up with an immediate answer, suffering three consecutive three-and-outs, before tying the score at 7-7 early in the second quarter. Piloto capped a seven-play, 68-yard drive, with a 25-yard touchdown pass to senior tight end Kyle Miller.
Mount Union took the lead on a one-play, 80-yard burst, which consisted of a Piloto-to-Shorts hookup.
Sophomore kicker Tyler Almeida connected for a 24-yard field goal and Piloto found sophomore Collins with a 25-yard touchdown pass, helping the hosts to a 24-7 halftime lead.
The Raiders tacked on 10 insurance points in the third quarter, courtesy of a 23-yard boot by Almeida and a 7-yard touchdown pass from Piloto to Collins.
Bethel's final points came with 1:37 left as Logan Flannery scored on a 5-yard touchdown run.