The Purple Raiders and Crusaders have met in the last two NCAA Division III football national championship games and squared off in the semifinals in 2016.

Mount Union waged one battle after another with Wisconsin-Whitewater in the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl for about decade.

Will Mary Hardin-Baylor be the biggest obstacle between the Purple Raiders and the NCAA Division III national championship in the years to come?

Mount Union and Mary Hardin-Baylor have met deep in the postseason the last three years. The Crusaders beat the Purple Raiders in a 2016 semifinal before winning their first championship a week later. Mount Union avenged that loss in last year's Stagg Bowl. Mary Hardin-Baylor made it two titles in three seasons with a win Friday in Shenandoah, Texas.

"A lot of those guys played all three years," Mount Union linebacker Danny Robinson said of the Crusaders. "(Receiver and Stagg Bowl MVP), T.J. Josey, (running back) Markeith Miller, we got kind of familiar with those guys. They're great athletes. They got better each year."

It's too early to determine if the Crusaders will be another big threat for the Purple Raiders over a long period of time.

Mount Union and Whitewater squared off in the Stagg Bowl nine times from 2005-14. The Warhawks won six of the meetings, including the last five. The latest matchup, won by the Purple Raiders, occurred in the 2015 national semifinals.

The Purple Raiders have been dominant for a quarter century. They have won 13 national championships, lost in the title game eight times and missed the Stagg Bowl just five times since their first appearance in 1993. There are no signs of this level of success dropping soon.

Mary Hardin-Baylor was in the NAIA before becoming a full NCAA Division III member in 1999, the year after Mount Union won its fourth title. Despite being a young program, the Crusaders have a shot to remain a national contender over the long haul. Two championships in three years may look real appealing to Texas high school football players not recruited by Division I or II schools.

Nothing in Division III football ... or in life ... is guaranteed. The Purple Raiders and Crusaders will have to earn their way back to next year's Stagg Bowl in Sheandoah and to the 2020 and 2021 national championship games when they are played at Canton's Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.

No one will be surprised, though, if Mount Union and Mary Hardin-Baylor continue to share Division III football's biggest stage in the coming years.

 

Reach Mike at 330-580-8341 or

mike.popovich@cantonrep.com

On Twitter: @mpopovichREP