In the world of high school football, a stingy defense can take a team far.
With a second straight dominant performance on the defensive side of the ball, the Manhattan High football team capitalized on mistakes made by the Seaman Vikings, winning both the turnover battle and the game in a 19-7 victory Friday night in Topeka.
“That’s a physical football game,” Manhattan head coach Joe Schartz said. “Anytime you’ve got two teams that like to run the football, especially in that flexbone attack, it’s going to be a physical football game. That’s two offenses in a row we’ve faced where our defense performed brilliantly.”
The Indians won the turnover battle 4-1, with one of Seaman’s fumbles going for a second-quarter safety. The Vikings struggled with the exchange on zone-read plays and lost one fumble on an ill-advised option pitch.
“We won the turnover battle, and the defense did a nice job of not giving the quarterback clean reads and getting a lot of quick pressure and causing those turnovers,” Schartz said. “And I was proud of the way we were at the bottom of the pile, that the kids got in there and covered those fumbles and fought for it.”
Manhattan took a 12-0 lead to halftime and scored again in the third quarter to build a lead and ride it to victory against Seaman, who started to rally with a late third-quarter score, but couldn’t get over the hump.
The Vikings drove all the way to the Manhattan 1-yard line in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t score after a false start on first and goal pushed them back to the 6-yard line. Four plays later, the Indians got the ball back at their own 1-yard line after holding Seaman’s Reid Fehr to no gain on fourth and goal, all while chewing up clock.
“That’s a big play,” Schartz said. “I believe there was about 4 1/2 minutes left at that time. If they score a touchdown there and kick off to us, there’s no telling what would happen, because all the momentum would have been on their side. With us stopping them there at the goal line, that was the ballgame.”
Manhattan quarterback Kellen Myers had his best game as a passer, finishing an efficient 8-of-11 passing for 130 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He also had 22 yards on the ground.
“He made good decisions,” Schartz said of Myers. “After the fantastic goal-line stand by our defense, I was proud of the way Kellen managed that coming-out offense to get a couple first downs and really run off a lot of time and not give them another chance to get back in the ballgame.”
Chris Martin was the leading rusher for the Indians with 40 yards on 10 carries. Leading the way for Seaman was Brady Barnes with 64 yards on five carries. Vikings’ quarterback Ryder Chaffee had a tough night in the option game, ending with 11 yards after losing chunks of yardage on sacks and fumbles. He finished with 93 yards through the air.
Do-everything back Joseph Reagan got three carries as a running back and caught two passes in the game, though he did drop what would have been an easy touchdown on a ball that slipped through his fingertips.
“We did a nice job,” Schartz said. “He’s definitely a threat and I think we contained him well.”
Manhattan (2-1, 2-0 Centennial) got on the board early against the Vikings, with Myers connecting on a 68-yard pass over the middle to Winston Dimel, who outran the defense the rest of the way for a score in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Manhattan added to its lead with a safety on a fumble play that just as easily could have been a scoop-and-score for the Indians. Instead, it was a Vikings player landing on the football, giving Manhattan two points and the ball.
The Indians defense played well the entire first half, capitalizing on the Vikings’ three first-half fumbles and often starting the offense in good field position.
Late in the second quarter, Darian Taylor came in at quarterback for a series and Manhattan drove all the way to the Vikings’ 10-yard line before a Taylor fumble gave the ball back to Seaman.
After a fumbled pitch on the next play by Seaman, the Indians got one more chance before halftime, but their drive stalled at the 10-yard line and they settled for a 27-yard field goal by Joseph Trujillo to take a 12-0 lead into the break.
The drive before halftime was the only time Taylor came in at quarterback - after his fumble, Taylor was back to playing only at safety on the defensive side of the field.
“It’s no secret that Darian is a physical runner,” Schartz said. “We’re trying to find some rhythm on offense and a way to run the ball. It’s a total team effort and we’re going to try and utilize our players to the best of their abilities.”
While Seaman undoubtedly made more mistakes in the game Friday, Schartz wasn’t pleased with his team’s execution. After a mostly clean game last week against Emporia, Manhattan lost a fumble and committed 13 penalties, five of which were false starts.
“Last week we didn’t have any turnovers or any silly penalties,” Schartz said. “The first week we had a lot, and we cleaned it up in the second week, now all of a sudden in the third week we have the turnovers and jumping offsides.
“You’ve got to go back to basics, get focused and be disciplined to clean those mistakes up.”