Berg football moves onto the elite eight for the third straight season

Muhlenberg football beats Delaware Valley to advance to the quarterfinals round of the NCAA Division III National Tournament

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Photo courtesy of the Muhlenberg Office of Communications. Linebacker Tyler Ekstrom '23 blocks a punt during the game versus Delaware Valley.

This past Saturday, the Muhlenberg football team traveled to Doylestown, PA, Nov. 27 to face off against the Delaware Valley University Aggies. After a defensive battle, the Mules came away with a 14-0 victory in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, sending them to the quarterfinals round of the tournament.

Throughout the first two games of the tournament, the Mules have been led by their shutdown defense, who have pitched back-to-back shutouts. In the first round against Framingham State University, the defense was able to keep the Framingham offense to just 241 total yards and forced four turnovers. 

A week later, against Delaware Valley, the defense didn’t miss a beat, halting a strong rushing offense to only 53 rushing yards all game. The unit also forced the Delaware Valley quarterback to go 15 out of 47 on pass attempts, intercepting three of his passes and sacking him nine times.

Kory David, the defensive coordinator for the team, spoke about how the defense will keep their foot on the gas this Saturday saying, “First and foremost, we have gotten here by playing fast and relentless defense. We know offenses are supposed to get yardage, but we can capitalize on mistakes through scheme or aggressive play. How we trained throughout the season will determine how we will continue to battle against [University of] Mount Union. It should be fun, I can’t wait.” 

David believes that any defensive player can make a play in important situations. When asking him about who he looks upon in big time moments to make an important stop and the advice he gives them, David named essentially the entire starting defense and then said, “I trust whoever is on the field will step up and make plays. Being a playmaker is our standard. When we need a stop I remind the guys of the situation coming up and talk about adjustments, but the message is simple: do your job and trust your teammates to do theirs.” 

Isaiah Lobelo ‘24, who is playing in his first season, spoke about how he believes the defense will continue their dominant streak against Mount Union: “We know Mount Union is a well known team offensively, but that won’t change anything for us. The main focus this week is to keep doing what we’ve been doing, and that’s being a shutout defense. Nothing changes from here on out on our side. We’re going to  be playing the same way we have been throughout the entire year. It’s been a dominant strategy for us up until this point so there’s no reason to change it now.”  

While the defense has been superb throughout these first two games of the tournament, the offense isn’t far behind, putting up 59 total points these past two weeks. Wide receiver Mitch Daniel ‘22, who recently received All-Centennial Conference honorable mentions, has been leading the Mules’ offensive attack. Daniel, over the first two rounds, tallied up 15 receptions, 203 receiving yards and three touchdown receptions. 

Daniel spoke about how he and the rest of the offense have been able to be effective saying, “I think experience has been extremely beneficial to me in this playoff run. Having been a part of our 2019 run, this is not uncharted territory. We firmly believe that games are won at practice and in the film room during the week, and it shows on Saturdays. That being said, practicing hard and watching film is how we plan to keep it rolling.” 

While it may have seemed like the Mules struggled offensively this past Saturday, as they put up their lowest point total of the season, Daniel didn’t see it as much of a problem: “I was very happy with the hot start our offense got off to. Delaware Valley had a phenomenal defense, and it was certainly tough to move the ball on them once they figured us out. Our defense was shutting them down, so there was no reason for us to take any chances that would put us in a bad position,” Daniel said.

The Mules travel to Alliance, Ohio for the Elite Eight game to take on Mount Union. Mount Union, who is 12-0 on the season, defeated Johns Hopkins 45-35 last week to set up this quarter finals matchup. The game will take place on Saturday, December 4 at 12 p.m.

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