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HCAC thriller extends MU win streak

NORTH MANCHESTER, IND. – Manchester University senior defensive back Jake Butler (South Bend, Ind.) will remember his final home game in a Black and Gold uniform for some time to come.

With Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference unbeaten Hanover attempting to rally all the way back from a 35-14 second half deficit, Butler nabbed two aerial attempts in Spartan territory in the final quarter to preserve a 35-34 MU win.

"It's great for Jake, on Senior Day, to have a game like that," Coach Shannon Griffith said. "It'll be something he can remember back and tell others when he reflects on his collegiate career.

"Overall, this was a great win for guys," he added. "The team has really had an undeniable will to win the last few weeks. There isn't any panic, and the guys are really working well together day in and day out."

Griffith's charges needed every bit of their 35-point, 391-yard total offense effort to stave off the visiting Panthers. Manchester, moving to 5-4 overall and 5-2 in league play, jumped out quickly with a pair of 50-plus-yard marches to lead 14-0 late in the first period. Sophomore running back Austin Adams (Dowagiac, Mich.) broke through a seam and rambled 58 yards for a touchdown, while junior quarterback Nick Williams (Fort Wayne, Ind.) pulled off a nifty play-action fake and hit senior wide receiver Kurt Monix (Crown Point, Ind.) on a 25-yard scoring strike on a fourth down call.

The visiting Panthers (6-3, 6-1 HCAC) came back with a 10-play, 65-yard drive in the final minute of the first half to cut it to 14-7 at the break. Hanover came out for the second half and went on a lightning-fast three-play, 70-yard march to even the contest at 14-14. MU answered with a vengeance, piling up 21 straight points to lead 35-14 late in the third quarter. Williams, as part of a 164-yard passing and 143-yard rushing contest, hit junior halfback Ryne Lehrman (Hoagland, Ind.) and Monix for scores and then found a hole up the middle and bolted 70 yards for a score during the run.

From there, Hanover pieced together a three-touchdown run of its own. However, following two of the scores, extra point attempts went awry. Manchester's special teams got a block on one, as junior defensive lineman Dan Hunter (Monroeville, Ind.) batted a kick away, and on another, the Panthers' attempt went wide right. From that point, it came down to Butler's heroics on Hanover's final two possessions.

Monix joined Butler in recording a memorable Senior Day with seven catches for 113 yards and the two touchdowns. Place-kicker/punter Kyle Evans (Winamac, Ind.) also closed his home career with a big game with seven made extra points, increasing his current string to 13, and a 40.9-yards-per-kick average punting-wise with three downed inside the 20. Defensive back Matt Frieden (Wabash, Ind.) joined his classmates with eight-and-a-half tackles, including one for a loss, and a pass break-up.

Manchester closes its 2012 campaign with a trip to Anderson University's Macholtz Stadium Saturday, Nov. 10. Kickoff for the annual Battle for the Bronze Ball Game is 1:30 p.m.

NOTES: Manchester's five-game win streak is its longest since 1986. … A win at Anderson next weekend guarantees the Black and Gold a winning season for the first time since 1997. … Monix goes into his collegiate finale having moved into the top five of career receptions (122). … Saturday's win was the second in the last four years for the Spartans in the all-time series with Hanover.