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Area college football: Tommies, Mankato and Bethel previews

  • November 23, 2012 - 6:29 AM

GAMES OF THE WEEK

NW Missouri State at MSU Mankato, noon Saturday: NW Missouri State (10-2), the No. 4 seed in Super Region 3, advanced to the second round of the NCAA Division II playoffs with a 35-0 victory over No. 5 seed Harding. The Bearcats, who reached the quarterfinals of the Division II playoffs last season, are making their eighth consecutive appearance in the playoffs. The host Mavericks (11-0), the No. 1 seed in the region, had a first-round bye last Saturday. The Mavericks and Bearcats last played in the 2005 and 2006 seasons, with the Bearcats winning both games. The Mavericks are looking for their first playoff victory since 1993.

Elmhurst at St. Thomas, noon Saturday: The Tommies defeated St. Norbert 48-17 last Saturday for their 14th consecutive win -- and seventh consecutive playoff victory -- in the month of November. In the second round of the Division III playoffs this week, the Tommies (11-0) will play host to Elmhurst. The Bluejays (10-1), making their first appearance in the playoffs ever, rallied for a 27-24 victory over Coe in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, last week to advance. This is the first meeting between the Tommies and Bluejays. The Tommies have reached the quarterfinals the past three seasons.

Bethel at Wis.-Oshkosh, noon Saturday: Last Saturday, Bethel held on to defeat previously unbeaten Concordia (Ill.) 24-23 in River Forest, Ill., to advance to the second round of the Division III playoffs. This week, the Royals (9-2) travel to Oshkosh, Wis., to take on WIAC champion Wis.-Oshkosh. The Titans (11-0) were ranked No. 5 in the final d3football.com regular-season poll. Two years ago, Bethel reached the semifinals of the playoffs by winning three consecutive games on the road.

WEEK 13 STORY LINE

End of an era: The college career of Minn. Duluth QB Chase Vogler came to an end Saturday in the Bulldogs' 57-55 triple-overtime loss at Missouri Western. The loss was only the Bulldogs' sixth in 52 games started by Vogler in his four-year career. Three of the six losses came in Division II playoff games. Vogler, from Inver Grove Heights, passed for 7,583 yards and 59 TDs and rushed for 2,903 yards and 39 TDs in his career. In 2009, Vogler became the first true freshman to start at QB for the Bulldogs in 47 years. Prior to Vogler, Ted Schlafke was a four-year starter at QB for the Bulldogs.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Mike Valesano, LB, St. Thomas: The 6-2 senior from Brainerd has led the Tommies after missing the 2011 season because of injury. Valesano leads the Tommies defense, which was No. 8 in the regular season in Division III in rushing defense (72.2 yards per game) with 53 tackles (33 solo).

Mitch Hallstrom, WR, Bethel: The 6-2 junior from Eden Prairie leads the Royals with 69 receptions for 763 yards (11.1 yards per reception). Hallstrom caught eight passes for 100 yards and a TD and also threw a TD pass in the Royals' 24-23 victory over Concordia (Ill.) last Saturday.

BY THE NUMBERS

1 Playoff games hosted by MSU Mankato prior to this season (in 2009).

20 Players who have started at least one game on offense for St. Thomas this season.

376 Rushing yards in the past two games for St. Thomas freshman Brenton Braddock. He has rushed for a team-high 814 yards in nine games.

JOEL RIPPEL

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