In their last game of the regular season, the Muhlenberg football team cemented its case for a spot in the national playoff tournament.

Playing its annual game against Lehigh Valley rival Moravian, the Mules were dominant on both sides of the ball in a 53-7 victory that capped off their regular season with a 9-1 record. Quarterback Michael Hnatkowsky, ’21, completed 17 passes on 21 attempts, throwing for 208 yards and 3 touchdowns. Hnatkowsky just completed his sophomore season, but his first as a fulltime starter for the Mules, and is looking to make a name for Muhlenberg College as the team enters national competition this upcoming weekend.

In order to make the playoffs though, the Mules had to earn a win against Moravian, who they play each year in the final game of the regular season. Fortunately, the team’s game plan was executed perfectly, which is a testament to all sides of the ball on the field, as well as the coaching staff.

“We were able to execute the great game plan that coach Milne came up with for the Moravian defense,” said running back James Diggs, ’21, who ran for 83 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, “Each week coach Milne comes up with a brilliant game plan for our opponents and we just try to execute it to the best of our ability. This win was important to us because it clinched a share of the conference for us and that’s something we haven’t done in eight years so it was special, but other than that it was another team that posed a great challenge for us.”

Coach Milne, who was leading the Mules in his first full season as head coach of the team, added that any win is special, but it was especially meaningful to win a rivalry game that had heavy implications on playoff positioning.

“It is one of our goals each season to qualify for the NCAA tournament.”

“It is always great to win your rivalry game,” he said. “We didn’t expect that score but our team executed very well. We played fast from the start of the game, which meant our team really believed in the game plan. Our defense was able to get stops early in drives, which allowed for the offense to have great field position. Anytime we can pin our opponent back and give the offense great field position it’s a recipe for success.”

Now that the regular season has concluded, the team shifts its attention to its Saturday afternoon matchup against Delaware Valley University, who also posted a 9-1 record this season but was consistently ranked much higher in the national polls than the Mules. Despite the tough task ahead, everyone involved with the Muhlenberg football program is thankful to have an opportunity to compete for top recognition in the sport at the D3 level, and they are ready for the challenge of facing a national powerhouse team.

“It’s an honor to be a part of the NCAA playoffs,” said Diggs. “It’s a chance for us to showcase what Muhlenberg football is all about on a national level and we can’t wait to showcase our talents to the rest of the nation. Even though we are in the playoffs our mentality hasn’t changed one bit. We still have things to prove and we want more than just to be in the playoffs.”

The head coach of the program emphasized that it is important for Muhlenberg to get national looks in this tournament, as typically the program only plays local teams throughout eastern Pennsylvania and the surrounding area.

“It is one of our goals each season to qualify for the NCAA tournament, “ said Coach Milne. “Muhlenberg has been an outstanding program for a long time and every time we have the opportunity to showcase our student athletes at the national level is a recognition our team earns.”

“It’s a chance for us to showcase what Muhlenberg football is all about on a national level.”

Whatever happens in the game against Delaware Valley, the game will nonetheless mark one of the final contests for this year’s group of seniors. They have been instrumental in leading the Mules to immense success on and off the football field over the past 4 years, and their presence in the football program will be greatly missed.

“This senior class is really special to Muhlenberg,” said wide receiver Ryan Curtiss, ’21. “They showed us how to be the people and players we are this season and have shown a lot of heart and hope for this team. After going through 4 years in the Muhlenberg football program they have grown to show us the right way in things and how to be the team we are today. They will leave a legacy of greatness because of the people they are and how they led this team to being 9-1 and still going in the playoffs.”

This is a special group of seniors, the first group that Coach Milne has had the pleasure of coaching for a full season, and the team is hoping to give their seniors at least a few more games of Muhlenberg football with a deep run into the NCAA playoffs.


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