Edgewoood graduate Lilja ready for playoffs with Mount Union

Edgewood graduate Matt Lilja, right, makes a play for Mount Union during a 2021 regular-season game. Lilja and the Purple Raiders are making another Division III postseason appearance. They are scheduled to host Washington & Jefferson at noon on Saturday in first-round action.

It doesn’t get old for Matt Lilja.

The Edgewood graduate is making his third playoff appearance for Mount Union starting on Saturday.

“Our expectation is to get further in the playoffs,” said Lilja, a senior defensive lineman. “We go out each day to compete. We have to keep pushing and working hard.”

The Purple Raiders, who are ranked fourth in Division III, host Washington & Lee (Va.) in a first round playoff game at noon at Mount Union Stadium.

Mount Union is 10-0 overall and won its 32nd Ohio Athletic Conference title to claim one of 27 automatic bids to the tournament. The Purple Raiders have a 104-18 record in NCAA Playoff game. Mount Union has advanced to the Stagg Bowl 21 times since 1993 with a record 13 national championships.

Mount Union has now made the tournament a record 32 times.

Lilja started all 10 regular-season games for the Purple Raiders. He has recorded 17 tackles, including six for loss, with five sacks.

The sack total is tied for eighth in the Ohio Athletic Conference.

“In the spring, I didn’t have any sacks,” Lilja said. “I kept working hard. I keep a high motor. I’m taking advantage of every opportunity presented to me.”

Lilja has made the adjustment from linebacker at Edgewood to the defensive line at Mount Union.

“I picked up the run game well,” he said. “It wasn’t a horrible transition. I still have improvement to make.

“I’m doing my job. If we all do our job, we’ll be good.”

Mount Union is playing its first fall season for Geoff Dartt, who was elevated to the heading coaching position when Vince Kehres left to become the defensive coordinator at the University of Toledo.

Dartt, in his second season of leading the Purple Raiders, was a three-year letterwinner as an offensive lineman, and part of three Mount Union national championship teams (2002, 2005, 2006).

“It’s been a very smooth transition,” Lilja said. “It’s not about who the coach is, but the standard here. He played at Mount Union so he knows Mount Union football.”

Lilja is scheduled to graduate in May 2022, but has two years of eligibility remaining because of a redshirt as a freshman and the coronavirus pandemic last fall.

Lilja isn’t the only county or Madison graduate listed on playoff-team rosters.

Lnebacker Alex Blackie of Madison, sophomore defensive lineman Edmund Juodenas of Geneva and freshman running back Daniel Bruckman of Jefferson are listed on the Purple Raiders roster.

For Washington & Jefferson, freshman Cole Seger, a Grand Valley graduate, is listed as a defensive lineman.

The Mount Union-W & J winner will take on the winner of a matchup between No. 11 Salisbury (Md.) and No. 17 Johns Hopkins (Md.) on Nov. 27 at noon at a location to be announced.

In Division II, Bemidji State University has received its first berth into the NCAA Football Championship.

The Beavers were selected as a No. 5 seed and will travel to face No. 4 Augustana University on Saturday in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Junior wide receiver Dhel Ducan-Busby, of Madison, ranks third on the team with 40 receptions and 583 yards. He has scored five touchdowns.

In addition, Grove City College has been selected to host Utica in the Eastern College Athletic Conference Division III Scotty Whitelaw Bowl. Kickoff will be Saturday at noon at Robert E. Thorn Field.

Grove City went 7-3 during the regular season, including a 6-3 mark in Presidents’ Athletic Conference play.

Grove City will be making its fourth all-time ECAC bowl game appearance. Ethan Ward, an Edgewood graduate, is a senior defensive end for Grove City. Ward is a two-year member of program at tight end.


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