The Girl in the Pressbox: Hometown heroes

This one’s going to be a little different and maybe a little off-topic, but hey, I went home this past weekend and there’s nothing like football season in Alliance, Ohio. I was always very aware of the presence the University of Mount Union football team had in Alliance. It doesn’t matter if you went to Mount or if you know anyone who did, everyone buys into it all the same. I’ve never been to a game, but still, Mount Union football has been ingrained in me just like the rest. We’re a town full of pride, but if you look at the kind of football team we boast, it’s kind of obvious why. And that’s why I wanted to use this platform to write about it. Maybe you’ve heard of Mount Union, and maybe you haven’t, but for a little Division III school, the kind of success the team has had is unparalleled. It’s been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. That a college football team can do what Mount Union has done is pretty incredible. After all, the cast changes every year. People clad in purple, toting their stadium seat cushions, swarm toward the Mount Union Raiders’ stadium every Saturday. A long-standing tradition of success is put on trial each week. At the end of the day, the Raiders will have trounced another team, something the loyal tailgaters outside the stadium never doubt. It’s hard to remember the last time the Mount Union Raiders lost a regular season game. It’s fascinating the kind of success the Raiders have had every year. You just have to stand and marvel at it all. The dominance is especially notable when looking at the scores of Raiders games. They routed Marietta Saturday evening for a 84-14 win. It’s not even close. It usually isn’t.

A familiar sight for Raiders fans. Photo by JT Higgins/NewsNet5.com.

A familiar sight for Raiders fans. Photo by JT Higgins/NewsNet5.com.

Though the first game of the season gave the confident Mount Union fans the chance to understand what it’s like to be a normal sports fan—you know, the type that actually has to feel his or her blood pressure rise every one in a while. The game was a close 30-27 win over Franklin University. Mount fans are spoiled, but the tradition is rich in Alliance. The Stagg Bowl is an annual city-wide celebration, with televisions in many homes flipped on to the game. Each year, diehard fans make the trek to Salem, Virginia in December. Mount has the most Stagg Bowl appearances with 16, spanning from 1993-2012. They have 11 titles. All of that success came under the helm of Larry Kehres, who is the athletic director and recently passed the baton to his son, Vince. How incredible is that? It makes you wonder how they reached that success. As a product of the town, it was never really something I questioned, just something I took for granted. There was just always a roar coming from the stadium, just a short walk from my house. The cheers only confirmed what we already knew—Mount Union was winning.

But then I grew up and I came to college and I was given a completely different experience. I didn’t pick Ohio University for the reputation of its sports teams, and honestly, it wasn’t even something I knew much about. But, I was lucky to find a compelling team to root for. I realized soon though, that college athletics aren’t always so cut and dry. Good teams do lose sometimes. There’s nothing at all wrong with that. Though if Mount Union ever lost a regular season game, I wouldn’t want to be around to see it. The state of depression my town would be in would be just plain awful.

I remember feeling devastated last year when Ohio lost to Miami on Halloween, I experienced what being a college football team is all about. They play the game because nothing is guaranteed. Maybe it stings sometimes, but that’s what I like about sports. The unexpected is possible. And maybe I didn’t really get that growing up as a Raiders fan. It was always a win. It was always expected. Maybe I never really bought into that about being a Raiders fan. I’m proud of my town and I’m proud of what Mount does every year. I think it’s pretty incredible that the success has followed the Raiders for so many years. I think I like it this way though, of hoping and rooting and ups and downs. After all, what does winning mean if you really never know defeat?

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