Topeka High (3-1, 3-1 Centennial League) came into its game against Manhattan (3-1, 3-1 Centennial League) expecting to put up a lot of points. Instead, the Indians held them to just 14, as MHS handed the Trojans their first loss of the season, beating them 21-14.
“The defense did a fantastic job,” head coach Joe Schartz said. “You got Topeka High that averages 55 points a game, all the experts picked us to give up 35 points this game, and we only gave up 14, so that speaks volumes to how well the defense played. They tackled really well in the open field, and to hold Topeka High to 14 points is phenomenal.”
Manhattan held T-High to 255 yards of total offense, including just 49 yards from sophomore star running back Ky Thomas.
“We just kept on playing,” senior Nik Grubbs said, “just playing hard, and went after him all four quarters and it just worked out.”
After a three-and-out from Topeka to start the game, Manhattan began to move down the field. However, it would be stalled, forcing senior Thomas Gevock to kick a 36-yard field goal to give MHS the 3-0 lead.
T-High responded quickly though, as sophomore quarterback Da’Vonshai Harden launched a 76-yard touchdown pass to senior Larry White over senior C.J. Lowery.
“C.J.’s challenged,” Schartz said. “He’s not very tall, and a lot of the receivers he’s going against are tall, so you know, he hung in there, he played a great run corner. They couldn’t block him. He kept a low center of gravity, and just kept that edge and he made a lot of tackles out there, did a real nice job for us.”
Neither offense could get anything going until midway through the second quarter. Sophomore Kevontae McDonald broke through for a 54-yard touchdown run, putting Manhattan up 10-7.
McDonald finished the game with 204 yards on 26 carries, scoring both of MHS’ touchdowns. McDonald has become Manhattan’s go-to guy as the season has progressed.
“You can see him growing up,” Schartz said. “Hopefully he continues to develop, and he’s going to be a guy that can carry us offensively, that’s what we need from him.”
Gevock would kick another field goal as the half expired, giving the Indians a 13-7 halftime lead. Both offenses continued to struggle as the half began, with Topeka fumbling the ball on its first possession. Grubbs was able to jump on the loose ball, giving Manhattan a free possession.
“[The fumble] was just in a split second,” Grubbs said. “I was on backside contain, so I was moving a little bit slower to make sure it wasn’t a cutback, and I just saw the ball pop out, sprinted and just dove on it, landed right on it and came up with it.”
Manhattan was unable to capitalize, as the offensive woes continued. However, a couple drives later, the Indians were finally able to punch the ball into the endzone on a 2-yard McDonald run, set up by a 30-yard run from sophomore Isiah Childs.
“Another kid that in my eyes had a stand out game was Isiah Childs,” Schartz said. “He stepped in and made some plays for us and you know that’s big for us.”
A two-point conversion made it 21-7 with a quarter to go, but Manhattan knew it wasn’t out of the woods yet.
“Any time that you play Topeka High with the type of offensive firepower that they have,” Schartz said, “you can never be safe. It seems like our games over the years have always come down to the wire, so I knew, even when we were up 21-7, that there was a lot of time left and it was going to come down to the end.”
The Trojans didn’t give up yet. After failing to score on their only long drive of the half, Topeka picked up a fumble from senior Talon Claussen. Four plays later, Harden lofted a 30-yard pass over Lowery to White, drawing the score to 21-14.
Manhattan could not get any offense going, giving T-High the ball with 3:46 left in the game. After an early first down, the MHS defense held tough, forcing a fourth-and-five. If the Indians stopped them, Manhattan would have a huge advantage heading into the final minutes.
“We weren’t nervous,” Grubbs said, “but we were focused. We were eager to make a play, but we just stuck to our own assignments and it just worked out in the end.”
Harden stepped back to pass, and flung it out to Thomas on a screen play. Thomas ran it right up to the first down line before being stopped.
“From our point of view,” Grubbs said, “we could see that it wasn’t a first down, so we were just excited to see it happen.”
Even so, the officials had to bring out the chains and measured the spot.
“I was just wondering about the chain gang,” Schartz said, “what side of the line are they going to put the clip? They did it correctly, and it came up a couple inches short.”
Manhattan was able to run out the clock from there, with Childs getting the game-clinching first down.
After the game, the Indians celebrated in the locker room, singing and banging on lockers.
“[There was a] whole lot of energy,” Grubbs said. “We were pumped up, we were having a whole lot of fun and celebrating. It was just really fun in there.”
Schartz had been pushing this mental image the whole week leading up to the game.
“I told them on Monday,” Schartz said, “right away, ‘I want you to envision yourself being jubilant in that locker room after the game, after we beat Topeka High, and work backwards from that. What are you going to have to do? You’re going to have to go out there and make plays.’ Needless to say, that was a very, very jubilant locker room.”
Manhattan now has to turn to Seaman (3-1, 3-1 Centennial League), who is coming off its first loss, thanks to Shawnee Heights. MHS will host the Vikings on Friday night, as it celebrates homecoming.
The Indians know this will be one of the most physical games of the season.
“Seaman does a great job,” Schartz said. “I told the kids after the game that I think Seaman, other than us, is one of the most physical teams in the league and I think it’s going to be a battle.”