|The Muhlenberg sidelines celebrate as Nick Sirico (27) runs down the sidelines en route to his 65-yard touchdown.
Photo by Tom Nettleton, d3photography.com
Randolph-Macon and Muhlenberg each won road games in the first round and Mount Union and Centre advanced easily in the top-right corner of the bracket in the first round of the 2018 Division III football playoffs. Nick Sirico's pick-six with 35 seconds left gave Muhlenberg a 20-13 win at Delaware Valley, while Randolph-Macon knocked Michael Canganelli out of the game in the first half and picked off Anthony Moeglin four times to pull the upset at John Carroll.
The past decade of playoffs
Here's how Division III conferences have performed in the playoffs over the past 10 postseasons, from 2009 through the first round of 2018:
- Updated playoff bracket
- Wrapup: Mount Union bracket
- Wrapup: UMHB bracket
- Wrapup: UW-Whitewater bracket
- Wrapup: Brockport bracket
- First-round playoff scoreboard
- Even more game stories
Sirico's interception return covered 65 yards for the game-winning touchdown as Muhlenberg defeated the Aggies, 20-13. Delaware Valley jumped out to a 13-0 lead at the end of one quarter but only had one possession that reached the Mules' red zone the rest of the game. Muhlenberg picked off Dashawn Darden three times afte had had thrown just three interceptions all season coming into the game. Michael Hnatkowksky finished with 286 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Max Kirin caught six passes for 155 yards for the Mules.
"We had a great feel for their offense," Sirico said after the game. "We knew what they wanted to do and that just comes from a lot of work and preparation. ... When the time came to make the play, that's really all it came down to."
Muhlenberg should be in position to host a second-round game next week as they will face Randolph-Macon. The Yellow Jackets won a playoff game for the first time ever as the team survived an early missed field goal, a blocked extra point and a blocked punt return for a touchdown to get past the eighth-ranked Blue Streaks 23-20. The punt block allowed John Carroll to cut the lead to 16-13 with under four minutes left, and the JCU defense forced a three-and-out, but John Carroll turned the ball over on downs at its own 9-yard line. The Yellow Jackets scored to go up 10 and John Carroll scored a desparation TD with 20 seconds left but could not cover the onside kick. Tre Frederick had 29 carries for 101 yards and three catches for 81 more to help keep the clock rolling for Randolph-Macon (9-2), as the Yellow Jackets held the ball for more than 44 minutes. Moeglin finished 8-for-28 passing for 156 yards with the four interceptions, while Canganelli had a 48-yard TD run among his eight carries before he left the game late in the first half.
It's the first road playoff win for the Old Dominion Athletic Conference since 2005, and the first playoff win overall since 2013.
Colin Burnam ran for three touchdowns and two Centre quarterbacks threw for two scores apiece as the Colonels had their way with Washington & Jefferson in a 54-13 win. Centre jumped out to a 17-0 lead, and when the commanders-in-chief cut the lead to 27-13 before halftime, rattled off the final four touchdowns to put the game away. Cody Estep had four catches for 111 yards and two scores in the win, as Centre advances to play at Mount Union next Saturday.
Cornerback Louis Berry scored his defensive fifth touchdown of the season, and Jake Keeney's first start at quarterback for Mount Union looked to be just as good as anyone else's, as he completed 11 of 15 passes for 287 yards and four touchdowns in a 60-0 win vs. Denison. The Purple Raiders held Canaan Gebele to 8-for-27 passing, picked him off twice and sacked him seven times in advancing to the second round. Jared Ruth caught all four of Keeney's touchdown passes, finishing with six catches for 209 yards and the four scores.