Football dominates, shuts out Highland Park

Jacob Clanton, Print Editor-in-Chief

Manhattan High’s game plan against Highland Park was simple: come out and dominate early.

“It was a different challenge,” head coach Joe Schartz said. “It was the first time we were a decided favorite coming out of the locker room, so it was a different challenge, and the boys handled it well.”

Manhattan (2-1, 2-1 Centennial League) worked its game plan successfully, scoring early and often in a 55-0 shutout of Highland Park (0-3, 0-3 Centennial League).

MHS got started early, recovering an HP fumble just a few plays into the game.

“We had C.J. [Lowery, senior] and our safety coming down,” senior Jalin Harper said, “and C.J. made an awesome hit and then held him up, and I think Camron [Drake, senior] stripped it, and then I can’t remember which one of them recovered it but they did an awesome job.”

Junior Kevontae McDonald ran the ball 13 yards for a touchdown on the next play, giving Manhattan a 6-0 lead less than a minute into the game.

McDonald lead the team in rushing, gaining 70 yards on seven carries, and scoring three times. Sophomore Isiah Childs added 66 yards on five rushes, and one touchdown.

Senior Reece Wewer ran for a 5-yard touchdown on Manhattan’s next drive, giving the Indians a 14-0 lead. Manhattan would quickly take the ball back, with senior Hunter Christensen recovering an HP fumble.

“[The defense] did a real nice job once again,” Schartz said, “came out and tackled well and created turnovers, and you know, that’s key to us having success and winning football games.”

The Indians marched down the field, scoring on a McDonald one-yard dive, capitalizing on the turnover and taking a 21-0 lead. After a short Highland drive, senior Talon Claussen led the Indians on a one-play, 19-yard touchdown drive to take a 28-0 lead after the first quarter.

Manhattan would score two more quick touchdowns in the second quarter before putting in the second-string players.

“That takes away injuries for the ones,” Harper said, “and it’s great because they’re getting playing time, and some of those guys don’t usually, and they just got in there and tore it up too.”

The Indians were still dominant, as sophomore Childera Okere picked off Highland junior quarterback JaShawn Spicer, returning it 10 yards for a touchdown.

“I was kind of questioning whether or not it hit the ground,” Schartz said, “but the guys watched it on film right afterwards, said he, Childera, did a nice job of picking that off and running it into the endzone.”

Defensive scores are always major boosts for the team.

“It takes stress off the offense to score,” senior Dirk Andrade said, “it gets the defense hyped up, it gets the crowd hyped up. It just tears the team apart, the offense, because they have to come back on after they threw a pick and they’re just done.”

As a whole, Manhattan’s defense was effective, allowing only 78 total yards.

“I think we just lined up correctly and we all did our jobs,” Harper said. “I mean, everybody was pumped up for the game, and feeling it, and we made good tackles.”

Andrade led the defense in tackles, ending 12 plays.

“Just getting that is a huge honor because we have a lot of talented guys on the team who just work hard and it’s just a great feeling, a great honor,” Andrade said.

A running clock in the second half meant Manhattan only had one offensive drive, but the Indians used it effectively. They marched down the field, capping the drive with a one-yard run from backup quarterback Sam Hankins in his first Varsity appearance.

“It was a first time experience,” Hankins said, “but it felt smooth, it felt good. I felt confident, I felt confident in my team.”

Coming off the big game against Washburn Rural, Manhattan had to make sure to stay focused against a lesser opponent.

“We just kept the energy up,” Harper said. “It wasn’t any different, it was ‘Okay, we’re coming for you,’ and likewise, they were coming for us, so we just had some fun.”

The Indians return to action next Friday, taking on Topeka High (3-0, 3-0 Centennial League) at Hummer Sports Park. Manhattan knows it will have its hands full preparing for the Trojan’s attack.

“I think the preparation has to be better,” Schartz said. “The game plan this week was quite simple, and next week is going to be a little more complicated, and the kids are going to have to make that progress in their preparation. I think it’s the right time for a big challenge, it’s the right time for us to see how much progress we’ve made, and Topeka High’s going to be a heck of a football team and a heck of a challenge.”