Defense comes out strong for homecoming

Jacob Clanton, Print Editor-in-Chief

Defenses thrive off of takeaways. It gets them off the field quickly, and provides a boost to the team. Turnovers often lead to a momentum shift as well, partly due to their rarity.

Takeaways were not in short supply for Manhattan High (4-1, 4-1 Centennial League), as the Indians recorded seven takeaways in a 27-9 win over Seaman (3-2, 3-2 Centennial League).

“Guys were just flying around having fun,” senior Jalin Harper said, “and when big hits happened, the ball popped out and we jumped on it. If we can get the ball to the offense, that’s awesome, that’s our job, we just need to get the offense the ball, and we did that, and it worked out for us.”

The Indians’ defense got started early, as senior Camron Drake recovered a loose ball on Seaman’s first play of the game. MHS scored three plays later on a 13-yard pass from senior Talon Claussen to senior Cameron Vikander.

Both teams would turn it over quickly on their next drives, giving Seaman the ball near midfield. The turnover bug struck again, as senior Caleb Payne snatched the ball out of the air for Manhattan’s first interception.

“I saw [the wide receiver] diving for the ball,” Payne said, “and then I guess it popped off his hands, and it went right into my hands. Then I started running.”

He wouldn’t get very far, but still gave MHS the ball past the 50-yard line. However, the offense could not capitalize on the field position.

“Overall, [I’m] just really disappointed with not capitalizing on all the turnovers and short fields that we had,” head coach Joe Schartz said, “but we did just enough.”

Seaman didn’t have that problem, scoring its first touchdown after a Claussen fumble. The Vikings would go on one more long drive before half, scoring a field goal to cut Manhattan’s lead to 10-9.

Though Seaman had the momentum at half, MHS knew it was still where it wanted to be.

“[At half, Schartz said,] ‘We’re right in it, we’re winning this, we just got to win one half of football,’” Harper said, “and he said, ‘you guys got to go though,’ and we did that. We came out with a lot more fire than we did the first half and we picked it up.”

The Indians’ responded by scoring a touchdown on their first drive, thanks to a 5-yard run from junior Kevontae McDonald, his only touchdown.

“[Scoring on the first drive] was crucial,” Schartz said. “[The] kids did a nice job in the locker room of not panicking and listening to the coaches, made a few adjustments and some things opened up.”

McDonald led the Indians rushing, going 67 yards on 19 carries. Claussen added 56 yards on 13 carries, and sophomore Isiah Childs ran for 46 yards on four carries with one touchdown.

Manhattan’s defensive onslaught continued in the second half, as Harper recorded his second and third interceptions of the game.

“I was in the right spot at the right time,” Harper said, “and it seemed like he threw it right to me and I was happy that that happened and took advantage of an opportunity that presented itself.”

Harper had a big week, committing to Oklahoma State for wrestling earlier in the week.

“It’s been a dream,” Harper said. “I’ve always wanted to wrestle at Oklahoma State, and I got the opportunity, so I took advantage and I’m going to go there now, and it’s just crazy.”

The Indians were able to capitalize on Harper’s second interception, turning it into a 23-yard field goal from senior Thomas Gevock. The kick was Gevock’s second field goal of the game.

“Every field goal is basically the same,” Gevock said, “it’s just line it up, just hoping to kick it straight, and keep your head down, and just follow the same procedure on every single field goal. Just makes it simple.”

Gevock’s field goal gave MHS a 27-9 lead with eight minutes left in the game.

Though the game was in hand, the Manhattan defense wasn’t finished yet. Seaman turned the ball over twice before going on a long drive. After working down the field, the Vikings had a first-and-goal from the 10-yard line. Three plays later, Seaman still had 10 yards to go.

On fourth down, the Vikings lofted the ball to the right of the endzone in a last-ditch effort to score. Payne, in coverage, was able to knock the ball down, securing the second-half shutout.

“They kept running [the wide receiver] on fades,” Payne said, “and I could just feel it. He like called to the [quarterback], said like, ‘Ay, ay, ay, yeah,’ so I knew that was happening, so I just got in his face.”

After two quick runs, the Indians were able to kneel out the game, clinching the 27-9 homecoming victory.

Thanks to homecoming, among other things, Manhattan had lots of distractions heading into the game.

“As a team it was kind of hard, just trying to block out any distractions,” Gevock said. “For myself, it was hard to stay focused, especially during the game, and during halftime, just stay focused on what I was doing, kicking field goals, kicking off, just staying focused the entire time. [Even so,] it’s the same as every other week, we’re out there preparing for one opponent, and we’re out there to win.”

One of those distractions was MHS’ next opponent: Junction City (3-2, 3-2 Centennial League). However, Manhattan knew the dangers of not adequately preparing for opponents.

“We didn’t want week one to happen again, with Shawnee Heights,” Payne said. “We didn’t come out with intensity or passion or anything [against Shawnee], so we knew what would happen if we played without that again, so we didn’t want that to happen.”

The Silver Trophy game will be Friday at Bishop Stadium. After they celebrate this win, the Indians will start preparing for the big game.

“When you win, you have to enjoy it,” Schartz said, “You can’t take it for granted, so the kids are having a nice time. It was a great homecoming victory, and we need to have a good time and enjoy this, but we need to get back to work. I told them, ‘We need to bring that Silver Trophy back to where it belongs,’ and the kids are motivated. They’re going to have a great week of preparation.”