Inconceivable as it may seem, there are players on the Mount Union roster who were not even born when the Purple Raiders began their streak of consecutive appearances in the NCAA Division III semifinals, which today reaches 20 years.

Inconceivable as it may seem, there are players on the Mount Union roster who were not even born when the Purple Raiders began their streak of consecutive appearances in the NCAA Division III semifinals, which today reaches 20 years.

But even for a program with an unprecedented run of success -- Mount Union is undefeated in the regular season since 2005, has won 11 national titles and appeared in the championship game 17 times since 1993 -- this season has been impressive by any measure.

The Raiders are outscoring opponents by an average of 59.5 to 8.4, a margin that only increases when two close games against Ohio Athletic Conference rival John Carroll (31-24 on Nov. 15 and 36-28 in a Division III quarterfinal) are removed. In 11 other games, Mount outscored the opposite by an average score of 64-5.

Wesley figures to keep it much closer than that. The Wolverines have lost three previous meetings against Mount Union, all three in the playoffs, though all three were hard-fought. Mount Union won 24-7 in 2009 and 28-21 in 2011 before putting a scare in the Raiders last year before falling 62-59.

In that game, Mount busted out to a 31-0 lead in the first quarter before Wesley rallied, closing to 48-41 early in the fourth quarter. But Mount Union quarterback Kevin Burke ran for one touchdown and passed for another to help keep the Raiders in front.

Burke, a Lakewood St. Edward product, has put together an outstanding senior season, and thus is in position to become the first two-time winner of the Gagliardi Trophy, awarded to the top all-around player in Division III. Burke has passed for 3,674 yards this year while throwing 42 touchdowns and only four interceptions. He is 42-1 as Mount Union's starting QB.

Among the three finalists for the Gagliardi with Burke is Wesley quarterback Joe Callahan, who leads Division III with 3,750 yards passing and 45 touchdowns. Callahan threw eight TD passes in last season's loss to Mount Union.

Another shootout could be on tap this season. Mount leads the nation in scoring and Wesley is No. 3. The Wolverines' only loss was 38-33 to Charlotte, a Division I school playing in Football Championship Series.

***

Wesley College at Mount Union

Division III semifinal

Noon, Alliance, Ohio

Records: Wesley 12-1; Mount Union 13-0

Last meeting: Mount Union won 62-59 last season in a Division III quarterfinal in Alliance; Mount Union leads series 3-0

-- Ray Stein

rstein@dispatch.com