SALEM — You shoulda got ‘em this year.
Mount Union and UW-Whitewater each had to replace significant chunks of their lineups for 2008, with the graduation of dominant senior classes. There were questions coming into the season, and frankly, the Road to Salem was as wide open as we’ve seen in years.
But now that the Purple Raiders and Warhawks have traveled that road, mostly in dominant fashion, once again, it’s fair to look ahead and wonder how anyone can overcome them.
Certainly in football there are upsets, injuries, weather and other factors that play into who emerges victorious at the end of a 10-game season backed by a 32-team playoff. That’s half the fun, nothing is a given.
But Mount Union started eight seniors today: QB Greg Micheli, RB Nate Kmic, T Luke Summers, G James Bird, TE Chad Reynolds, DE Joseph Millings, LB Chas Yoder and CB Daryl Ely. They also started 12 juniors and two sophomores, a nucleus that — while without their stars in the backfield — will likely be favored to return to Salem.
UW-Whitewater, which started three seniors (Ts Mike Sherman and Rob Gilbreath, and MLB Jace Rindahl), is even better positioned to make a run next season. QB Jeff Donovan is a junior, RB Antwan Anderson is a sophomore and RB Levell Coppage is a freshman. Altogether, Whitewater started 12 juniors, five sophomores and two freshmen in the Stagg Bowl.
One thing that doesn’t sound like it will be happening is a Purple Raiders-Warhawks regular-season matchup. Mount Union has nine conference games locked and UW-Whitewater has seven, and a game in the first week of ’09 and ’10 is possible. The teams played in that slot in ’02 and ’03, but Mount Union coach Larry Kehres was jokingly noncommittal after the Stagg Bowl.
“I was stupid enough to wear a stocking cap this week and get caught on video,” he said, referring to an incident at the Stagg Bowl luncheon where Kehres’ picture was shown on a big screen. “But I’m not stupid enough to schedule Whitewater in the regular season.”
Perhaps its a show of respect from Kehres, who now has a rival program capable of beating his team in any given season. But if UW-Whitewater is considered on Mount Union’s level, or close to it, that’s not good news for the rest of us. Sure, we have our conference titles to chase and playoff games to participate in, but if there are two dominant powers, and no one could stop their inexperienced rosters from getting to Salem, what makes us think we’ll be able to stop them any time soon?
Are we destined for more of the same?
The floor is open for well-supported arguments for teams that might break the Purple cycle.