Mules Cruise Past Brockport, Advance to Quarterfinals for Second Straight Season

Mules Cruise Past Brockport, Advance to Quarterfinals for Second Straight Season

Release courtesy of Muhlenberg Athletic Communications

ALLENTOWN, Pa. -- The Muhlenberg football team flexed its muscles on defense again, shutting out Brockport 42-0 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

The fourth-ranked Mules (12-0) set a school record with their 12th win of the season and advanced to the quarterfinals to play at Salisbury, a 62-41 winner vs. Union, in the quarterfinals.

One week after blanking MIT, 38-0, Muhlenberg hung another zero, becoming the first team in the history of the Division III playoffs (dating to 1973) to record shutouts in each of the first two rounds.

Muhlenberg allowed 184 total yards, including only 71 on 21 passing attempts. The Golden Eagles (9-3) took only six snaps inside Mule territory, none inside the 40, and they resulted in a total of -5 net yards.

Junior Joshua Barnett (pictured above) was one of 12 Mules to record a tackle for loss, finishing with a pair of sacks among his six stops. Seniors Dante Lonardo and Mickey Kober also made multiple stops behind the line of scrimmage.

The back-to-back shutouts were the first for the Mules since 2012.

Meanwhile, behind record-breaking performances by junior Michael Hnatkowsky and senior Ryan Curtiss, the offense picked apart a Brockport defense that ranked in the top 10 in Division III in rushing defense (first), total defense (fifth) and pass efficiency defense (ninth).

Hnatkowsky completed 18 of 30 passes for 243 yards and five touchdowns, tying the school record for TD passes in a game for the fourth time this season. With at least one game remaining in his junior season, he now holds the Centennial Conference career mark with 93 touchdown passes.

Curtiss caught eight passes for 107 yards and two touchdowns, adding a third TD running out of the wildcat formation in the fourth quarter. He broke the CC and school record for career receptions by a tight end (141) and also tied the school record of 14 touchdown catches in a season.

Senior Todd Spirt also made history, booting all six extra points to become the CC all-time leader in points scored by a kicker (286).

Muhlenberg took the opening kickoff and was forced to punt after gaining one first down. On the punt, the bouncing ball hit one of the Brockport players and was recovered at the 19-yard line by sophomore John Washington.

It was the lone turnover of the game, but it set the stage for what was to come.

Two plays after the fumble, Hnatkowsky connected with Curtiss on a 6-yard score.

Later in the quarter, completions of 12 and 22 yards to Curtiss set up the second touchdown, a 17-yard pass from Hnatkowsky to junior Mitch Daniel.

Trailing 14-0, the Golden Eagles elected to go for it near midfield with 1:03 left in the first quarter, and junior Nick Sirico broke up the pass. Nine plays and 51 yards later, it was Hnatkowsky to Curtiss from 17 yards out to make it 21-0.

Curtiss had seven catches for 100 yards in the first half alone. Daniel, who hauled in a 41-yard scoring pass in the third quarter, narrowly missed a 100-yard game, catching five balls for 99 yards.
Senior Chris Hillburn also caught a touchdown pass to cap a 13-play, 74-yard drive that featured conversions on third-and 13 and third-and-14 against a Brockport defense that was holding opponents to a 20.5-percent conversion rate on third down.

Junior James Diggs rushed for a game-high 76 yards on only 12 carries to lead a rushing attack that gained 124 yards – 97 more than the Eagles' average entering the game.