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February 26, 2024

The miracle at Muhlenberg: Hopkins football improves to 8–0

By JOSEPH RAINBOLT | October 30, 2023

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COURTESY OF HOPKINSSPORTS.COM

The Blue Jays scored a game-winning touchdown off a blocked field goal to defeat Muhlenberg College 34–28.

Hopkins football is now ranked as the eighth-best team in D-III football after an impressive 34–28 victory over 22nd-ranked Muhlenberg College on Saturday, Oct. 28. Hopkins was ahead for most of the game, but a late surge by the Muhlenberg Mules left the game tied with two minutes remaining. The improbable then happened, as a blocked kick by the Mules was returned for a touchdown by the Blue Jays to win the game. 

Control early

Hopkins took control of the game from the onset as the Blue Jays held a 14–0 lead early in the second quarter. The two touchdowns came courtesy of a seven-yard reception by senior Will Leger and a five-yard run by senior Spencer Uggla. However, by halftime, the Mules were back in it, having punched in two touchdowns to close the half. The two teams entered the break in a 14–14 stalemate.

The second half proved to be the same story, as the Blue Jays added two more touchdowns in the third quarter. Nine minutes into the quarter, junior quarterback Bay Harvey rushed for a six-yard touchdown. This was followed by a 27-yard touchdown reception, including an impressive hurdle by Leger, his second of the game. This gave Hopkins a commanding 28–14 lead going into the fourth quarter.

A near choke

Despite the Blue Jays’ late lead, this game had a flair for the dramatic. With six minutes remaining in the game, the Mules completed a short three-yard pass to make it a one-score game. They then proceeded to tie it up just three minutes later, this time on a 24-yard touchdown pass. The Hopkins 14-point cushion going into the fourth quarter was gone. 

However, there was time to make things right, as Hopkins began a drive with two minutes remaining to win the game. Harvey then broke loose for a 75-yard run that appeared to put Hopkins ahead in the final moments of the game. Unfortunately for the Blue Jays, the run was called back due to block in the back. On the very next play, Hopkins threw an interception, giving the Mules an opportunity to finish their comeback. 

The Mules would squander the opportunity, as a one-handed interception by senior cornerback Luca Lutzel gave the ball right back to the Blue Jays at the edge of Muhlenberg territory. With just over a minute on the clock, Hopkins began their final drive, finding themselves on the 14-yard line, attempting a game-winning field goal with three seconds on the clock.

The miracle

During the kick, an air horn went off in the crowd and the snap was high, causing confusion with the kick and forcing junior kicker Joe Zahner to slow his run-up. His kick came out way low, went directly into the line and ricocheted out. It was then picked up by Leger, who ran it in untouched for the game-winning walk-off touchdown. 

In an interview with The News-Letter, Leger recapped the play in detail.

“It was definitely the strangest end to a game that I had ever seen or been a part of,“ he said. “The setup to the field goal was completely normal. I stepped down and blocked the Muhlenberg player that was rushing through my gap. I looked down and saw that the ball had been kicked right into my hands. I took a quick second to process what had just happened and then ran to the end zone.”

Leger starred in the key victory, as the senior tight end racked up 87 receiving yards and three total touchdowns, making him the team’s touchdown leader of the season with 10. The Hopkins defense, while letting up 400 yards of offense to the Mules, came up big when it mattered, ending with three interceptions, including two in the red zone.

Hopkins is now 8–0 and currently stands alone atop the Centennial Conference. A win this Saturday would clinch the top place in the conference for the Blue Jays, regardless of the results in their final game the following week at home against McDaniel College. 

“Clinching an outright win of the Centennial Conference has been the focus of our team since the off-season,“ Leger said. “All the lifts, practices and preparation have been done under the shared goal of winning the boot, so winning it would be huge. Barely missing out on the playoffs last year left a bad taste in everyone's mouth, so winning the conference and gaining an auto-bid to the playoffs is a key goal for us.”

Hopkins will look to secure their place as Centennial Conference champions when they face off against Dickinson College away this Saturday, Nov. 4 at 1 p.m.


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