By: Jake Haubner
The Wittenberg football team found themselves facing Division III powerhouse, Mount Union in the second round of the playoffs. Mount Union is always a tough game for any team year in and year out. This year was no different. Mount Union came into the game ranked first in the nation. But, the Wittenberg Tigers were close behind, ranked 10th in the country and on a ten game win streak.
Despite both programs being perennial powerhouses, this was the first meeting between the two teams in recent years. Both teams have 700+ wins in their histories. Wittenberg holds only a one game advantage over Mount Union in being Division III’s winningest program.
The game started out with Wittenberg striking first when senior Reed Florence led the Tigers right down the field and finished it off with a 23 yard to senior Brendon Cunningham. The quarter ended with the score all knotted at 14. The Tigers came up empty in the second quarter and went into the half down by 7. Mount Union came out the second half fired up and scored two straight touchdowns. The lone score from the Tigers was on sophomore Jimmy Dehnke’s 10-yard touchdown run. Mount Union went on a run in the fourth quarter to bury the Tigers. The final score went on to be 56-21. Tigers passing attack was the most effective offense they could muster, as the going was tough on the ground. Reed Florence threw for 327 yards and two touchdowns, along with an interception. On the receiving side, Brendon Cunningham had nine catches for 168 yards and two touchdowns. The Tigers defense ended up with four sacks.
Despite the loss, the Tigers finished with an incredible season. Their only regular season loss was to Butler University, who had a very successful season in Division I-AA. Reed Florence led the way, winning the NCAC Offensive Player of the Year award. He ended the year with 30 touchdowns, a 186.1 passing efficiency and only six interceptions. He not only was an aerial threat, as Florence ran for nine touchdowns and 329 yards. Joe Fincham also received NCAC honors as the Coach of the Year. He led the Tigers to an undefeated NCAC record and his 12th NCAC title. His career record of 163-36 is impressive in itself. The Tigers also had All NCAC players all across the board.
Wittenberg’s offense produced 12 players who made First, Second or honorable mention status. Reed Florence, Sean Gary, Brendon Cunningham, Stephen Zumdick, Alec Nutling, Aaron Coelling, and Matt Widemon all made First Team All-NCAC for the offense. Defensively, eight players received NCAC honors. Spencer Leno, Josh Bannick, Josh Montgomery, Heath Eby and Mark Swope all earned First Team All-NCAC honors. More awards and honors for the Tigers will likely come as the Division III tournament finishes up.