Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
ALLIANCE — Throughout his football career, Teagan McFadden has competed in a lot of “big” games.
You could point back to 2014 when Paint Valley handed Tuscarawas Central Catholic a 38-7 loss in a Division VII regional quarterfinal, a game where McFadden racked up 163 yards rushing alongside two touchdowns in the Bearcats’ first playoff win since 2003.
Or you could go back to 2015 when the running back aided his teammates to yet another Week 12 berth in a 21-20 overtime win over Newark Catholic, one where he scored from 14 yards out.
Those are just two “big” moments in McFadden’s high school career that stand out. He’s still Paint Valley’s all-time leading rusher with 4,050 yards, he was a four-time All-Ohio honoree and during his time in Bainbridge, the Bearcats posted an overall record of 32-12-1.
We don’t have time to go over all of McFadden’s “big” moments or games … unless you’re prepared to read for hours on end.
But on Dec. 14, 2018, McFadden — now a sophomore running back at the University of Mount Union — experienced a “big” game like he never has before.
At 14-0 and ranked as the nation’s number one team, the Purple Raiders traveled to Shenandoah, Texas to play in the Stagg Bowl with an NCAA Division III National Championship on the line.
“It was unreal. Of all the games that I’ve played, no matter the sport, they haven’t compared to that setting and feeling,” McFadden said. “When you’re here, that is the exact expectation. You are here to win National Championships and that’s what we do. Our success as a program goes unmatched at any level.”
He’s not wrong.
Mount Union was vying for its 14th national title, entering the game on a 29-game winning streak and as the defending national champions — in 2017, the Purple Raiders beat the University of Mary-Hardin Baylor by a 12-0 final to pick up its 13th championship.
But unfortunately, this season didn’t end on the same high note. Mount Union and UMHB reunited at Shenandoah’s Woodforest Bank Stadium and the Crusaders beat the Purple Raiders, 24-16.
“UMHB had an amazing season and congratulations to them on winning a National Championship,” McFadden said. “We have incredible respect for their program.”
Still, McFadden will never forget this year’s playoff run — a streak that included wins over Denison (60-0), Centre (51-35), Muhlenberg (38-10) and Johns Hopkins (28-20).
“The playoff run was truly incredible and something I’ve never been a part of,” he said. “It’s really like a completely new season. The preparation is different and the feeling of the games is different. It’s hard to appreciate the season we had at first because it obviously didn’t end in our favor. But one loss doesn’t define this season or the team. We’re so much bigger than a single game.”
Individually, McFadden ended the year with 43 rushes for 207 yards and a touchdown. While his carries were limited in Mount Union’s backfield, he found other ways to contribute.
If you know Teagan, you know if there’s any way he can get on the field, he’ll take take that route … no matter how long or rigid the journey.
“This season was about embracing the role I was given, which was as a backup running back, blocking in our wildcat formations and starting on special teams,” he said. “I played in 14 of the 15 games this season, so that’s something to be proud of. But I’m always looking to play more.”
As McFadden alluded to, the Raiders played 15 games thanks to their postseason success. That’s, by far, the longest season he’s ever been a part of.
When you throw in the three extra weeks of preparation before the season starts, offseason activities, team meetings and, of course, getting an education, it truly becomes a grind.
“This season was a bit of a roller coaster because it was so long. I went 18 weeks of straight football. Balancing that with school is always a challenge,” McFadden said. “However, it is completely worth it. my first season there was truly amazing. The senior class showed me what it was like to be a Raider and I’m forever thankful for the leadership they have given me.”
You probably could’ve guessed this but after an 18-week “grind,” McFadden is already looking forward to next year’s kickoff.
“I have two years left here at Mount and I want to make the best of them. I’m looking forward to it. Like I said before, I’m always hungry for more. I want to play more snaps, no matter what way I’m on the field,” he said.
Mount Union begins its 2019 season on Sept. 7 at Rose-Hulman (Ind.). The Raiders’ home opener is currently slated for Sept. 21 against Baldwin Wallace.
While many in his hometown keep an eye on him, he’ll be keeping an eye on his Bearcats.
“It always amazes me, the support that I receive from everyone back home. School and football can be a lot at times and it’s always a great feeling to have a great support system. I’m truly blessed with an amazing family and group of friends. With football being so time-consuming, it’s hard to get back to Bainbridge to watch my Bearcats play. But I still have a very close relationship with coach [Pete] Hollon, so I’m always updated on how the season is going. I will always be their biggest fan and to see them excel is something I cherish.”