NORTH MANCHESTER, IND. – An offensive attack that produced 589 yards in a Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference week one win at Earlham Sept. 19 didn't miss a beat in week two Saturday, Sept. 26.
Thrilling a home crowd of nearly 1,200 fans at Burt Field in its 2105 home opener, the Spartans turned a back-and-forth first half contest into a 44-31 win by scoring the first 21 points of the first half and limiting visiting Mt. St. Joseph to just two scoring drives in the final 7:30. MU's victory, its sixth in its last 11 home openers and the first in the series versus the Lions since 2012, moved the Black and Gold to 2-1 overall and 2-0 in the league.
"To me, it all started on Friday night after practice," head coach Shannon Griffith said. "I challenged our guys to see if our will could match their will to win a game if we played our best on offense, defense and special teams. I thought they delivered that in each phase, playing well across the board.
"We did get a little tired late on both sides of the ball and got a little lackadaisical," he added. "All in all though, to get 44 points and 562 yards against a team the caliber (of Mt. St. Joseph), whom I have a lot of respect for because of what their program does in being a perennial conference power, it's a good sign for us."
The two teams opened a sunny fall afternoon matching each other offensively. A pair of touchdown passes for senior quarterback Logan Haston (Avon, Ind.), coupled with a 40-yard field goal strike off the foot of freshman Cooper Henderson (Charlottesville, Ind.) and a 25-yard scoring scamper from freshman running back Tyler Pruitt (Springfield, Ohio), managed to offset a pair of MSJ scoring tosses and a field goal for a 23-17 halftime edge.
MU's defense stiffened for a majority of the second half. They recovered back-to-back fumbles on the first two visiting offensive attempts while forcing two punts and grabbing a pair of interceptions around MSJ's fourth quarter touchdown tosses. Meanwhile, the Spartans' offense kept on rolling, producing touchdowns on three of its four possessions to extend the lead to 44-17.
"We took a positive step today," Griffith noted. "From here, we need to continue that … building each week and making each game a little bit bigger. I'm very pleased with what we accomplished this afternoon."
Haston and sophomore running back Hunter Hardee (Fishers, Ind.) proved to be a formidable one-two punch. The senior signal caller turned in his fourth 300-plus yard career effort with 334 yards and three touchdowns going 27 of 33 through the air, while Hardee continued an impressive start to his second collegiate career rushing for 161 yards on 25 carries and two touchdowns. The receiving corps were balanced with six individuals hauling in three-or-more catches led by junior tight end Brandon Webb (Fort Wayne, Ind.) who ended with six receptions for 84 yards, and senior wide receiver Evan Rice (Gosport, Ind.) compiled seven receptions for 69 yards.
Reigning HCAC defensive Player of the Week Taylor Anglemyer (Wakarusa, Ind.) proved his award by registering 10 tackles to go with a forced fumbled, two interceptions and a fumble recovery. The linebacker duo of junior Nathan Birk (Indianapolis, Ind.) and sophomore Mitchell Oskam (St. John, Ind.) tallied eight tackles each.
The Black and Gold begin a two-game road trip Saturday, Oct. 3. They take a southern journey to five-time defending league champion and fellow conference unbeaten Franklin College for a 1:30 p.m. kickoff.
NOTES: Hardee's 100-yard-plus rushing string is the program's longest since 2012 when former quarterback Nick Williams reeled off four in a row … The victory marked MU's first win at home in the series against the Lions since 2000-01.