Long after the final buzzer sounded Friday night, Manhattan head football coach Joe Schartz encouraged his team to look at the big picture after ending the season with a 55-20 Class 6A quarterfinal loss to Derby at Bishop Stadium.
It may take time, but Schartz knows his team will understand eventually.
“My message was once they have time to reflect, they’re going to realize what a good thing they had and they created,” Schartz said. “This is a special team and these memories are something these seniors are going to take with them for the rest of their lives.”
The Indians struggled most of the night against the top-seeded Derby Panthers, finishing with 204 yards of offense while allowing a season high of 538 yards defensively.
The Panthers were especially effective on the ground, breaking off several long runs while pounding away at the Manhattan defense all night long. Derby finished with 370 yards rushing, though the Indians were able to take away tight end DeAndre Goolsby in the passing game.
“It’s just the simple fact that they had too many weapons,” Schartz said. “The quarterback was able to run and throw the ball, and they had a couple good running backs and they had three or four good receivers. We tried to take away one thing and they would burn us with the other.”
Derby quarterbacks Jeremy Dunham and Caleb Arnold split time in the game, but both found success. Dunham finished with 161 yards and two touchdowns through the air, while Arnold did most of his work on the ground, finishing with 118 yards and a touchdown rushing and another touchdown receiving.
Running back Tyler West finished with a game-high 132 yards rushing and three touchdowns.
Goolsby, who chose Florida over Kansas State on Nov. 8, wasn’t called upon as often as in other games, but did pull down a 7-yard touchdown in the second quarter that showcased his size and athleticism, with Arnold throwing up a jump ball at the goal line as Goolsby out jumped the Manhattan defensive back.
Offensively, Manhattan struggled most of the night, with Josh Mullin leading the way on the ground with 63 yards and scoring on a 54-yard run in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Kellen Myers couldn’t find rhythm in the passing game or the running game, finishing 9 of 23 for 34 yards through the air and logging just 4 yards on seven carries.
“They’re a very good defensive team and we struggled to execute up front and get anything going,” Schartz said. “We had some opportunities and we didn’t take advantage of them.”
In the beginning, Manhattan got just the start it needed when Henry Bieber dropped the opening kick off, picked it up, ran through a facemask and scored on a 90-yard return to give the Indians a quick 7-0 lead.
“The kids were totally ready for this game, and emotionally charged,” Schartz said. “You could see it — they came out of the locker room and exploded. These kids have played their hearts out all year long and tonight was no different. Nobody ever quit and they played the way they’ve played all year long, which was with tremendous heart.”
After allowing a first down, the Indian defense managed to force Derby to punt, getting the ball deep in its own territory. But in a sign of things to come, Manhattan struggled to move the ball offensively, punting after a quick three-and-out, but doing so into the wind. Derby got the ball at the Manhattan 28-yard line and punched it in easily on the following play, with Dunham running into the end zone untouched to tie the game.
Derby showed why it’s the No. 1 team in Class 6A from there, scoring 27 more unanswered points before halftime in a variety of ways, while holding the Indians to just 67 offensive yards in the first half.
The Panthers, on the other hand, managed 295 yards and dominated the first two quarters. They ended the half showcasing their two-minute offense, with Dunham connecting with Arnold on back-to-back plays, the first for 27 yards and the second for a 25-yard touchdown to give Derby a 34-7 halftime lead.
“I think we’ve proved that over the last few weeks,” Schartz said. “It obviously helps us to spread the ball around and open it up and we just missed on some early opportunities. Once we dug a hole, we just couldn’t dig ourselves out.”
With the win, Derby advances to next week’s 6A state semifinals, where they’ll matchup against Wichita Heights, which beat Garden City 35-28 in the other West region sectional game Friday.