Manchester University
Oak Leaves

September 20, 2019

Spartans Prep for Conference Play

Alex Baker


Manchester faced a tough side in Alma this past Saturday evening, as the Spartans fell 35–7 to the Scots at Burt Field. There were, however, some positives from the game despite the score.

“We got our running game going,” says Nathan Jenson, head coach of the team. Donavan Henderson, Jr., senior running back, put up prolific numbers. He scored the lone touchdown with a 25-yard run and ran for over 100 yards. Senior linebacker Justin Thomas thought this game was an opportunity for the young players to get adjusted to college football. “A lot of the young players are getting playing time due to injuries so that will help us create depth for the future,” Thomas says.

Moving forward for the Spartans, Coach Jensen is excited about the growth within the football program. “Looking back at the first game with Trine, we started off really slow and then got it going which gave our guys faith and confidence,” he says. “They were understanding that they can play with anybody when they want to play.”  Coach Jensen believes the team’s source for inspiration is the desire to play better than the game before. “The biggest growth for a football team is between game one and game two,” Jensen says. “I am looking for huge growth from our team looking forward.”

Senior quarterback Alex Downard wants to contribute to this. “We have a really good group of guys and now we have to turn all of our hard work into wins,” Downard says. “Our goal is always to be 1–0 at the end of every week and that won’t change moving forward.”  The team is also preparing for conference. The Spartans have their eye on one objective: the conference title. “The ultimate goal is to compete for a conference championship,” Jensen says. “We have the talent, now we just have to execute. I think our effort along with the talent that we have can put us in a great situation.”

From the players’ perspective, Downard and Thomas have the same goal as their coach. “We will continue to go to work and continue improving from week to week so that when our conference schedule starts, we will be ready to rock and roll,” Downard says.

Thomas is confident in his team pursuing their goal for conference play. “We have the team to do it; we just have to prove it,” Thomas says. “The highest I have finished in conference was fourth place and I would like to crack the top three.” The ambitious Spartans are ready for any challenge they may face during conference.

There are critical matchups that they are looking forward to. Downard is highly anticipating the Hanover matchup as they are the defending conference champions. “We are always really excited to play Hanover College every year,” Downard says. “A rivalry has developed over the last few years so it’s always a big one for us.” Coach Jensen uses this game as a measurement to see where the team aligns in the conference.

Ultimately, the best rivalry game for Manchester football is the game against Anderson University. Many alumni from both sides will be in attendance to watch these two oppositions go head-to-head. Not only are both teams playing for a victory, but they are playing for a trophy as well. Each year the Bronze Ball is awarded to the triumphant team. Since the game will be played on Senior Day, Downard and Thomas would love to end their senior campaigns with a special victory. 

The Spartans will visit Hanover College to start conference play on Sept. 28 at 1:30 PM.