Familiar name leads Mount Union
Vince Kehres didn't have big shoes to fill. They were more like canoes.
All Kehres had to do in his first year as the University of Mount Union head football coach was succeed the all-time winningest coach in college football history, who also happened to be his father, Larry.
The end result? Another championship season that could end with the school's 12th national title.
Mount Union spent the entire season as the No. 1 team in Division III and plays UW-Whitewater for the Amos Alonso Stagg Bowl title Friday night.
“We wanted to keep things as consistent as possible here in terms of philosophy and the way things have been run,” Vince Kehres said. “There may be some subtle differences here and there, but we tried to keep things running smooth like they have been for years.”
Vince played for the Purple Raiders and had spent the last 13 years on the coaching staff including the last eight as defensive coordinator before taking over for his father in May. As either a player or coach, he has been a part of 10 of the Purple Raiders' 11 national championships. He is the second coach in school history to win an OAC title and earn OAC Coach of the Year honors in his first season as head coach. The 14 wins are the most for a first year head football coach in school history.
The Purple Raiders enter Friday's game riding a 29-game winning streak—longest active streak in any division—and are the defending Stagg Bowl champions. Mount Union is 195-7 since 2000, including 14-0 in Vince's first season. His father was also undefeated his first season and now serves as Mount Union's athletic director.
“I think it's a huge advantage to have one of the best coaches that ever coached college football to be there as a mentor and as someone trying to help you,” Vince said. “I don't think he's going to cut me any slack, but it's a huge advantage to have him around.”
Mount Union and Whitewater are no strangers to each other. Friday's game marks the eighth time in the nine years that the two teams have met in the championship game. Mount Union won the matchups in 2005, 2006 and 2008, while Whitewater won in 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011. Mount Union swept a pair of regular season meetings in 2002 and 2003 and leads the overall series 5-4.
Mount Union continues to be a juggernaut on offense, led by quarterback Kevin Burke. The Gagliardi Trophy winner has not lost a game as a starter since eighth grade and directs an offense that is averaging 49.0 points per game.
Whitewater, led by Gagliardi finalist Cole Klotz, features the top defense in Division III. The Warhawks allow 8.7 points per game.
“We have tremendous respect for Whitewater as a football program, especially defensive coordinator Brian Borland,” Vince said. As a defensive coordinator, I can really appreciate how difficult that is to be consistently good on defense.
“And they're no different this year in the sense that they're extremely well-coached, very disciplined and aggressive and fast on defense.”