NORTH MANCHESTER, IND. – Grit. Determination. A "Never Say Die" attitude.
Any of those monikers could have been placed upon the Manchester University football Spartans Sunday, Sept. 7, following a thrilling 29-28 win over in-state non-conference rival Trine University.
"This is a great win (for our team)," Coach Shannon Griffith said. "They kept believing the tide would turn, as it was one of those games both teams could have claimed. I'm pleased with our effort but, as with any game, there are things we can work on to keep improving and getting better."
Slugging it out with back and forth scores throughout, the game boiled down to a final 15 minutes in which MU held Trine scoreless while closing out a run of 12 unanswered points. Trailing 28-23, the Spartans drove to the Thunder 36-yard line to begin the frame before an interception stopped the threat. After the two sides then traded punts, the home team got a big break.
A low snap on a play attempt deep inside Manchester University territory was recovered by sophomore linebacker Jordan Kleber (Seymour, Ind.). Starting at their own 22, the Spartans began a 78-yard march that ended in the visiting end zone with junior quarterback Logan Haston (Avon, Ind.) plunging in from a yard out. Trine did get one more shot with the ball but a key sack from senior defensive end Stephen Coble (Edwardsburg, Mich.) knocked the visitors out scoring range. A first down later, after a failed fourth down pass attempt from Trine, and the Black and Gold had gained their first win in the series since 2006.
"I'm really happy for our seniors (through this finish)," Griffith said. "They are the ones providing the direction for our season. They did a great job leading us."
The final quarter drama occurred after a roly-poly three periods of action. Beginning with a start in which MU and their in-state rivals waited out lightning and a heavy late summer storm that rolled through Carl W. Burt Memorial Field Friday night until a 7-7 tie after one period was suspended at 10:33 p.m., the game picked back up with the visiting Trine University Thunder roaring out of the gate on a sunny afternoon with back-to-back scoring drives of 70-yards-or-more to take a 21-7 lead late in the second period. However, the host Spartans responded with an important 49-yard drive that set up freshman placekicker Andrew Coe (Roanoke, Ind.) with a 37-yard field goal that he hit perfectly for a 21-10 halftime count.
The second 30 minutes saw the Black and Gold offense explode. A seven-play, 84-yard roll, on their opening opportunity of the third period found paydirt, as senior running back Austin Adams (Dowagiac, Ind.) bowled in from a yard out, but the visitors responded a few minutes with a short field, 51-yard drive that ended with Masiewicz scooting in five yards for his third rushing touchdown of the day. Manchester University answered right back with a 65-yard end zone march of its own, as Haston hit sophomore wide receiver Dakota Nelson (Fairland, Ind.) with a one-yard scoring pass on a fourth down call to set up the frenetic fourth quarter finish.
The Spartans' stars shone around the field. Haston throw for a personal single-game high 245 yards, while Nelson hauled in 12 receptions for 120 yards to go with his 91-yard punt return dash to the end zone that tied the game during Friday's first quarter; Adams went over the 100-yard mark for the second time in his career; junior cornerback Taylor Anglemeyer (Wakarusa, Ind.) guided the defense with nine tackles; and junior defensive lineman Michael Hammer (Remington, Ind.) sacked Masiewicz twice.
Manchester University continues the 2014 slate Saturday, Sept. 13, welcoming SUNY-Buffalo St. to Carl W. Burt Memorial Field for a 12 p.m. kickoff.