By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
The scoreboard blew a fuse well before kickoff and was unusuable throughout the day. The star running back was injured on the first play from scrimmage, and his backup also briefly left the game later in the first quarter. And Anderson University’s first punt was returned for a touchdown.
Suffice it to say Senior Day did not go as planned Saturday at Macholtz Stadium.
Manchester (6-4, 6-2 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference) won the Bronze Ball for the fourth time in the past five years with a dominant 38-0 victory against the Ravens (0-10, 0-8).
“We started out on the wrong foot, and that’s been the story for these young guys this year,” AU head coach Bobby Ladner said. “Where we go from here will be important.”
Playing two quarterbacks and four running backs because of injuries, Anderson gained just 98 yards of total offense. One 12-play drive in the second quarter, on which the Ravens reached Manchester’s 32-yard line before missing a 49-yard field goal, accounted for 56 of those yards.
AU had eight three-and-outs, and 10 of their 12 drives overall netted less than 10 yards. The Ravens gained just six first downs and averaged 1.8 yards per play.
Anderson loses just four seniors from this year’s roster, and Ladner said the returning players understand the challenge that lies ahead.
“Guys see that we’re going to have to work really hard to compete in this conference,” Ladner said.
Manchester’s Brice Peyton opened the scoring Saturday with a 67-yard punt return less than three minutes into the game. The Spartans added a 21-yard touchdown run by Austin Adams and a 34-yard scoring run by quarterback Nick Williams to take a 21-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Jumbo-sized tight end Dante Dinkins barrelled into the end zone from five yards out with 4:13 remaining the in second quarter, and the rout was one. The 318-pounder added a 2-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter for the game’s final score, and Kyle Evans made a 44-yard field goal in the third quarter.
Williams led the Spartans with 100 yards on 16 carries but left the game early in the fourth quarter with an apparent head or neck injury. He was strapped to a gurney and taken away by ambulance.
Manchester rushed for 238 yards overall but scored just 10 points in the second half.
“We couldn’t stop the run at the very beginning,” Ladner said. “We made an adjustment at halftime, went to a different defense and stopped them a good bit. We probably should have made the change sooner.”
AU starter Jon Coddington completed 7 of 9 passes for 33 yards before leaving with an injury late in the second quarter. Nate Leeper was 2-for-11 for six yards in relief.
The Spartans kept both quarterbacks under constant pressure and finished with six sacks.
Trevon Carr led the Ravens with 45 rushing yards on 10 carries. Marcus Spann gained eight yards on three attempts after being injured on the opening play.
Anderson now faces an offseason of self reflection and improvement.
“Vow to never let this happen again and take a stand,” Ladner said of his parting words to his team. “Nobody said it was going to be easy. I think everybody understands where the Anderson University football program’s at and where we have to go.”