Football falls to Lawrence in sectional final

Advith Natarajan, Staff Writer

Manhattan football’s postseason campaign ended last Friday, losing to Lawrence High 41-22 in the quarterfinals of the state tournament. 

“They got pretty chippy,” senior defensive lineman Talique Houston said. “We started hanging our heads down real low and the game wasn’t even over yet … so that really caused the loss, nothing else.”

The first quarter began perfectly for the Indians, with early rushing scores from both Houston and junior quarterback Keenan Schartz. The Lawrence high offense was no different, countering every Manhattan touchdown with one of their own. However, as the game progressed, the Chesty Lions’ defense adapted to Manhattan’s run attack and stole the momentum. A 4th down stop by Lawrence with 6:30 remaining in the second quarter led to a sublime one-handed touchdown catch by Lawrence receiver Cole Watson, giving LHS a 21-14 lead heading into the half. 

“We really came out and handled the [Lawrence] offensive line and handled their defensive line and we kind of settled into our jumbo set and running the ball and then that dried up,” head coach Joe Schartz said. “So we were kind of victim of circumstance there with having that early success trying to pound the ball and, and where we really probably should have continued to mix it up a little bit. But like I said, when you have that much success early, why go away from it.”

The second half was a nightmare scenario for the Indians. The momentum Lawrence built up at the end of the first half continued into the second half. A slew of third-quarter turnovers by Manhattan (three fumbles, one turnover on downs) allowed the Chesty Lions to score a touchdown and a pair of field goals before the fourth quarter, extending their lead to 34-14.The still-run-heavy Manhattan offense continued to stagnate drive after drive and by the time they switched to a primarily passing attack, it was too late. This lack of offensive variety, combined with the lack of stops on Manhattan’s defensive end, ultimately gave Lawrence the win. 

“The one thing that they could always lean on was a quarterback run,” coach Schartz said. “It seemed like that every time that they needed to convert and move the chains and [ LHS quarterback Truman] Juelsgaard running the football was double tough.”

The loss was especially difficult for the seniors. 

“They brought me in as a family,” Houston said. “Not knowing me to knowing me, bringing me as a family, was always there for me if I was down, always bring me back up. So I just love them like a second family, a third family.”

The Indians will be without many star players next season. This includes running back Vinny Smith, defensive linemen Talique Houston and Josh Adeniji, receiver and cornerback Joe Hall, defensive back Colby Klieman, receiver Kyler Hahn, and defensive back Zac Hirschey. However, Manhattan has an exciting group of players to look forward to for next season. Quarterback Keenan Schartz returns for his senior year and explosive running back Deandre Auckland will replace Vinny Smith as the starting running back. Talented Linebackers Landon Machor and Jaxon Vikander will also return.

“I told the kids, no need to point any fingers here, just everybody get away and self evaluate and we got to get back to work,” coach Schartz said. “So, we never are going to totally reload because we’re Manhattan and we’re going to have a great season next year too.”