Alliance, OH- Media day at Keheres Stadium on the campus of the University of Mount Union featured a common theme when speaking with team leaders and head coach Geoff Dartt, ending the year hoisting the Stagg Bowl Trophy. It's a feat that has happened 13 times to date for the Purple Raiders, but the last time was in 2017, which equates to the longest national title "drought" in program history since the run of championships started in 1993. The previous "dry spell" was between their 2008 and 2012 championships. Their dominance was at its peak with two separate 3 peats (1996-1998 & 2000-2002).
Head Coach Geoff Dartt knows the joys of hoisting the crown jewel of NCAA Division III Football, he did it thrice as a player, playing under Hall of Fame Coach Larry Keheres, whom the stadium was renamed for in his honor. Following Coach Keheres' run was his son, Vince Keheres, who is responsible for two of the 13, bringing the hardware back to Alliance in 2015 and 2017 before moving on to join former Purple Raider Jason Candle as an offensive coordinator at the University of Toledo.
Due to COVID wiping out the 2020 season (Division 3 did play a shortened Conference-only schedule in the Spring of 2021), players affected were given a one-time eligibility extension to play a 5th year. The Purple Raiders have a handful of players who opted in, most notably QB Braxton Plunk and WR Wayne Ruby.
Surprisingly, it isn't the Ohio weather that brought back Florida guys Plunk and Ruby for another season of Purple Raider football, but it is evident that it has nothing to do with personal accolades, short of possibly winning the Gagliardi Trophy, D3's version of the Heisman. There isn't much on the personal side these two haven't already accomplished in their collegiate careers aside from bringing home the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl Trophy to add it to the large trophy case in the McPherson Academic and Athletic Complex.
On the defensive side, Senior Mason McMillen and Junior Rossy Moore lead the linebacker crew as they look to build on a great 2022 campaign that saw the Purple Raiders' defense allow 7 points or less in their first 5 games of the year. In total, they allowed only 92 points through the first 13 games (7.07 PPG average). It wasn't until the semi-final matchup with Wartburg that they allowed north of 30 points, taking the semi-final match by a score of 34-31 in a game for the ages.
The Raiders dropped the Stagg Bowl 28-21 to North Central, in a game played at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. This year, the Stagg Bowl returns to Salem, VA, the site of the first 13 national championship victories. Coach Dartt and the team hope they can add #14 at their home away from home come December.
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