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No. 23 Muhlenberg converts field goal as time expires to escape with 34-31 victory at Thomas More

By Don Owen
NKyTribune reporter

The scoreboard at BB&T Field showed less than three minutes remaining in the game Saturday afternoon, and Thomas More was in position to upset No. 23 Muhlenberg (Pa.) College.

Thomas More and Muhlenberg were tied at 31-all, but the Saints were deep in Mules territory at the 21-yard line and seeking the go-ahead score. Muhlenberg’s defense, one of the best against the rush in all of NCAA Division III, dug in and held the Saints to just four yards on three consecutive carries. That set up a potential winning field goal for kicker Cole Mathias from 34 yards out.

Muhlenberg’s Todd Spirt prepares to kick the winning 20-yard field goal as time expires to give the unbeaten Mules (6-0) a 34-31 victory over Thomas More. (Photo by Dale Dawn)

The attempt, however, sailed wide and the game remained knotted at 31-all with just 2:08 left on the clock.

Muhlenberg then drove 77 yards in nine plays, capped by Todd Spirt’s 20-yard field goal as time expired to give the unbeaten Mules (6-0) a 34-31 victory to spoil the Homecoming Game for Thomas More.

The loss also snapped a five-game winning streak for Thomas More, which dropped to 5-2. Thomas More is now 49-6 all-time at BB&T Field since the facility opened in 2008. Those six losses have been by a combined 16 points.

Thomas More had gained a 31-24 lead when quarterback Justin Post found wide receiver Nick Hall for a 1-yard touchdown pass with 10:15 to play in the game. Muhlenberg, though, responded with a 77-yard drive that ended with James Diggs’ 3-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 31-all with 7:54 remaining.

Thomas More finished with 257 total yards, while Muhlenberg gained 483 yards. Quarterback Michael Hnatkowsky passed for a career-high 376 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Mules.

Thomas More entered the game 15th nationally in rushing with the 273 yards per contest, but Muhlenberg was No. 9 nationally in the latest NCAA Division III statistics defending the run, allowing just 43.2 yards per game.

The Mules held the Saints to 125 yards on the ground. Thomas More senior running back Hjavier Pitts, who is No. 8 nationally in the latest NCAA Division III statistics with 151 yards on the ground per game, finished with 70 yards on 23 carries Saturday. Pitts also scored a pair of touchdowns.

Post was 17-of-26 passing for 257 yards and one touchdown. Luke Zajac finished the game with 14 carries for 55 yards for the Saints, who had not lost since a season-opening 35-28 setback at North Carolina Wesleyan on Sept. 1.

Thomas More is back on the road again next Saturday when the Saints travel to the state of Minnesota to play The College of St. Scholastica at 1 p.m.

Thomas More’s Luke Zajac (right) sprints past Muhlenberg defender Luke Wiley (17) on Saturday. (Photo by Dale Dawn)


Muhlenberg……0-14 7-13—34
Thomas More…0-10-7-14—31

Scoring Summary:
TM-Hjavier Pitts 1 yd run (Cole Mathias kick)
MUHL-Nick Ugarte 25 yd pass from Mike Hnatkowsky (Todd Spirt kick)
MUHL-Brian Raguseo 12 yd fumble recovery (Todd Spirt kick)
TM-Cole Mathias 28 yd field goal
TM-Luke Zajac 23 yd run (Cole Mathias kick)
MUHL-Ryan Curtiss 51 yd pass from Mike Hnatkowsky (Todd Spirt kick)
MUHL-Todd Spirt 37 yd field goal
TM-Hjavier Pitts 3 yd run (Cole Mathias kick)
TM-Nick Hall 1 yd pass from Justin Post (Cole Mathias kick)
MUHL-James Diggs 3 yd run (Todd Spirt kick)
MUHL-Todd Spirt 20 yd field goal
RECORDS: Muhlenberg 6-0, Thomas More 5-2.

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