NORTH MANCHESTER, IND. – A fast start for the host Manchester University Spartans was not enough to overcome a strong finish by the visiting Mt. St. Joseph University Lions Saturday, Sept. 23.
Coach Nate Jensen's team gave a crowd of better than 1,500 celebrating the Black and Gold's home and Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference opener on a warm and sunny early fall afternoon at Carl W. Burt Memorial Field plenty to cheer about early on. An eight-play, 78-yard march midway through the first frame culminated with sophomore quarterback Alex Downard (Indianapolis, Ind.) finding a senior tight end Jared Bourff (Elwood, Ind.) streaking down the middle of the field for a 25-yard touchdown strike. The visitors answered late in the period, but the Spartans' offense went to the ground with sophomore standout Donovan Henderson, Jr. (Hollywood, Fla.) cutting through the defense and busting a final tackle before out-racing MSJ's defenders to the end zone for a 58-yard paydirt scamper.
The lead continued into the early moments of the second quarter. However, Mt. St. Joseph wrapped up a five-play drive with sophomore running back Nykwuan Presswood scooting 38 yards for the tying score in the opening minute. From that moment, the visiting offense continued to rev its engines to the tune of 24 unanswered points, while the Lions' defense forced five punts, three series that wound up with MU stopped on fourth down and three others that saw interceptions halt the home side from moving further downfield.
Downard and Henderson led the offensive attack for the Black and Gold (1-2 overall, 0-1 HCAC). Henderson rushed for 109 yards and his first-quarter touchdown on 11 carries, and Downard threw for 145 yards and a touchdown but was picked off three times. Defensively, senior cornerback Wayne Smith (Columbia City, Ind.) turned in a unit best seven tackles, and junior cornerback Austin Coughlin (Fairland, Ind.) registered a takeaway with an interception.
The Spartans begin a two-game road trip Saturday, Sept. 30, traveling to preseason league favorite and perennial power Franklin College. Kickoff is 1:30 p.m.