Sports briefs 12-20-13: Mount Union vs. Whitewater again for D-III title

TOM WITHERS AP Sports Writer Published:

SALEM, Va. (AP) -- It will be familiar opponents when Mount Union and Wisconsin-Whitewater meet in the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl for the Division III national championship tonight.

But there will a new twist.

The teams have been the last two standing in Division III in eight of the past nine seasons, but the Purple Raiders of Mount Union (14-0) got there this year with a new coach, 37-year-old Vince Kehres.

Kehres is the son and former defensive coordinator under his father, Larry Kehres, who guided the Purple Raiders to 21 unbeaten regular seasons and 11 national championships in 27 years as coach.

"I feel like I got handed the keys to a Cadillac, and I put a coat of wax on it and I gassed it up," Vince Kehres said. "The football program at Mount Union didn't need a lot of touching up."

• Baseball

Axford to Tribe: John Axford had other choices where he could pitch next season. The Indians closed the deal.

Axford, who had 46 saves for Milwaukee in 2011 but lost his closer's job last season and was traded to St. Louis, finalized a $4.5 million, one-year contract Thursday and will close for Cleveland in 2014.

Yanks sign Beltran: Outfielder Carlos Beltran and the New York Yankees have finalized a $45 million, three-year contract.

The agreement, reached Dec. 6, was announced by the team Thursday. The eight-time All-Star is to be introduced at a Yankee Stadium news conference Friday.

Kobe injured: Kobe Bryant is expected to miss about six weeks with an injured left knee, dealing the second major injury setback of the year to the Los Angeles Lakers' superstar guard.

An MRI exam on Thursday revealed Bryant has a fracture in his lateral tibial plateau -- the top of his shinbone near his knee.

• Football

Rodgers practices: Aaron Rodgers looked fine on the practice field Thursday. It doesn't mean he is going to play.

There was no definitive word on whether Rodgers will be medically cleared to return from his left collarbone injury in time for Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was just another day in the guessing game called "When Will the Franchise Quarterback Return" for the Packers.

Haden uncertain: Browns star cornerback Joe Haden rode a stationary bike during practice as he recovers from a painful hip bruise.

Haden's status for this week's game against the New York Jets is still not known.

Florida vs. UM: Florida and Michigan will open the 2017 season in the Cowboys Classic in Arlington, Texas.

The prime-time game is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 2.

It will be Florida's first regular-season, non-conference game outside the Sunshine State since the Gators lost at Syracuse in 1991.

Each school will receive 25,000 tickets for the neutral-site game at AT&T Stadium, home to the NFL's Dallas Cowboys.

Rivalry ending: Another Notre Dame rivalry game is biting the dust.

Purdue announced on Thursday it has joined Pittsburgh and Michigan on the list of teams that usually play the Fighting Irish on an annual or near-annual basis but won't be any longer. Notre Dame's annual game against Michigan State could be the next to fall.

• Hockey

Jackets lose: Claude Giroux scored the tying and winning goals in the final minutes of the third period, rallying the Philadelphia Flyers past the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-4 on Thursday night.

Giroux scored two of the Flyers' five third-period goals as Philadelphia stormed back from a 3-0 hole.

Wings win in OT: Daniel Alfredsson scored two goals, including a power-play score at 1:03 of overtime, and Detroit earned a 3-2 win over Calgary.

Detroit snapped a six-game losing streak (0-4-2) and a five-game skid at home.

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