On Saturday, Oct. 28, the Johns Hopkins Blue Jays traveled up from Baltimore to take on the Mules, in a matchup that likely determined who will be crowned the Centennial Conference (CC) football champion. Coming into the game, both teams held records of 7-0 and were ranked in the top 20 of the American Football Coaches Association Division III (DIII) poll. The matchup between Muhlenberg and Johns Hopkins has been a key one in recent years, as one of the two schools has been the Centennial Conference champion in three of the past four seasons. This proved evident, as the game’s attendance was the largest it has been for a Muhlenberg football home game since they last hosted Johns Hopkins in 2021.
After an intense 59 minutes and 57 seconds of football, the game was tied 28-28, and Johns Hopkins was loading up to kick a 31-yard field goal to win the game as the clock expired. In one of the most bizarre endings to a football game, the Johns Hopkins kicker accidentally kicked the ball into one of his blockers, the blocker was then able to pick up the ball and run it into the endzone to score a touchdown and win the game 34-28. As this was one of most odd finishes to a football game, the final play garnered coverage from sports media platforms such as ESPN, Sports Illustrated and Overtime.
There’s no denying that it was a heartbreaking loss, and unless Johns Hopkins loses their final two conference games and the Mules win their final two games, the Blue Jays will be crowned Centennial Conference champions. However, the team knows they must put this game behind them if they want to give themselves any chance at winning the Centennial Conference championship and also making the DIII National Playoffs.
“The message was sent immediately after the game. For Muhlenberg, the focus is always on ourselves. The only thing we can control is what we do moving forward. We need to have a great lift on Monday, a great practice on Tuesday and focus on improvement. Championship climb is a core value of ours and when times get tough is when we focus inward to get the best out of ourselves and our team,” said Head Coach Nathan Milne.
Chris Ardito ‘24 echoed his coach’s sentiment, saying, “This loss definitely hurts, but the fact that we still have a chance at an NCAA playoff bid will keep us moving in the right direction. We know we can compete at that level and that’s what will keep us focused on moving forward rather than dwelling on our loss. It’s hard to get over a loss like that, but we understand we need to have a “next game” attitude. There’s nothing we can do about that game now, and we have two more opportunities to show what we can do. We won’t let those go to waste.”
Even though this is the team’s first loss since Nov. 5, 2022, the Mules still have plenty of positives to take away from the matchup. “I thought the offense did a lot of great things this weekend. We were able to get the ground game going at times and Joe [Repetti ‘25] was picking apart their defense through the air late in the game when we needed to score fast. In the drives that failed to get going or stalled out, it was because of mistakes made by us rather than what they were doing defensively. If we can clean up the penalties and be a little more consistent in the red zone then this offense can compete with anyone in the country,” stated Ardito.
The team knows they must forget about Saturday’s loss and focus on their next opponent, Franklin & Marshall (F&M). While Franklin & Marshall may not be a nationally-ranked team, they are not a team that the Mules can take lightly, as they only lost to Johns Hopkins by seven points earlier this season.
Ardito commented, “F&M is definitely a good team that has competed on a high level this season. This loss will motivate us to be great next week and prove to those who don’t think we belong in the playoffs that we do. We feel we still have a lot to prove and that starts this weekend against F&M.”
Milne relayed a similar message to Ardito’s saying, “This is a huge week for our team. This game versus F&M is to lock up second place in the CC. Not only that, but it is senior week and another opportunity for our program to reach eight wins and give ourselves a chance at the playoffs. The stakes couldn’t be any higher.”
Their matchup against the Franklin & Marshall Diplomats will kick off at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 4. The seniors of the team will be honored as it is the final home regular season game of their careers.