In a matchup between two of the Centennial Conference’s top teams, it was the home squad that came away with the dominant victory.
“Our guys are only given one opportunity a week to showcase their talents and being at home in front of friends and family is really important to them,” said Head Coach Nate Milne, in response to being asked about why his Mules play so well on their home turf. With the win, Milne remains undefeated as a head coach.
The Muhlenberg Mules continued their winning ways in the 2018 season, earning a dominant 42-21 victory over Centennial Conference rival and previously undefeated Franklin & Marshall. With the win, the Mules (4- 0) jumped into sole possession of first place in the conference and have entered conversation as one of the top teams in all of Division III college football. The 4-0 start is the best since 2008.
“This win was a huge one for us because it puts us one step closer to our goal,” said running back James Diggs ‘21, who posted one of the best games of his career with 110 yards on the ground and two rushing touchdowns. “Each week we look to get one step closer to our goal of a championship and wins are the only way we can move closer and closer to our goal as a team.”
Quarterback Michael Hnatkowsky ‘21 threw for two touchdowns in the first quarter, which
ended with the Mules winning narrowly by seven points. The Mules would protect their lead for the remainder of the game, earning a three touchdown margin of victory over a Franklin & Marshall squad that has been regarded as a powerhouse in the conference in 2018. Hnatkowski ended the game with 1012 passing yards on the season and 10 passing touchdowns. He is on pace to end with 25 passing touchdowns which would be tied for the most passing TD’s by a Mules quarterback in the history of the franchise.
Most recently the Diplomats entered play ranked 24th in the nation by D3football.com and 23rd in the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Division III poll. But the Mules knew a win would allow them to leapfrog the Diplomats into first place in the conference, and they were more than ready for the challenge. By beating the Dips, the Mules jumped up to the 24th spot in the D3football com poll and are one spot out of the AFCA poll.
“We were excited to go play such a highly ranked team in the country and we just played really hard and executed really well,” said Hnatkowsky, who had yet another stellar day with 271 passing yards and four passing touchdowns to four different receivers. “We’re excited to hold that top spot, however, I believe we are focused on what we do and we are just going to try to get another win this weekend against Ursinus.”
In previous seasons, the Mules have had to look up in the conference stand- ings, whether it is to Franklin & Marshall or to out-of-state rival Johns Hopkins. Al- though the team is now in a rare position as sole leaders of the Centennial Confer- ence, the team does not view this accom- plishment as something that will add a greater amount of pressure to the players and coaching staff.
“We feel no pressure at all,” said Diggs. “We know that each and every game in the Centennial Conference is going to be a dogfight so for us to remain at the top we know that our preparation and focus must be there on a weekly basis or else we could jeopardize our opportunity at achieving our goal.”
Diggs said maintaining focus on the road ahead is key. “We are going to treat next week’s game like any other game and prepare with laser focus and great con- centration. We have a formidable foe in front of us each week so we have no time to slack off in our preparation.”
Coach Milne echoed the sentiments of Diggs, emphasizing that the team strives to put in the same amount of effort into each practice and game, regardless of their place in the standings.
“We are hopeful that our team isn’t fo- cused on where we are in the standings no matter where we are,” said Milne. “We strive for daily improvement and know that what we did this weekend against Franklin & Marshall is no indication of what will need to be done this weekend. Our goal was to make the next game the biggest game of the season, that goal is not about who we play but about what we have accomplished to make this week the biggest game of the season.”
Up next for the Mules is a matchup against the 3-1 Ursinus College Bears, in Collegeville, PA on Oct. 6th.