TOPEKA — It may have been homecoming at Topeka West on Friday night, but the purple-clad fans in attendance didn’t have much to cheer about.
Manhattan scored 37 points in the first quarter and its defense allowed just 69 yards to the Chargers’ offense, which turned the ball over four times in the first half and struggled with snapping the ball much of the night.
“I was worried about the frame of mind that my kids were in,” MHS coach Joe Schartz said. “But we caught some breaks early and got off to a quick start and it snowballed from there. Overall it was a very successful night.”
Topeka West got legitimately close to scoring just once all night, picking up a fumble by Manhattan’s Michael Leeper and driving to the 24-yard line in the third quarter. But the Chargers were driven back from there, losing 8 yards on a Joseph Galvan run on third down before turning the ball over on a 3-yard sack on fourth down.
For Topeka West, the game was over long before the third quarter.
On the first play from scrimmage, Topeka West fumbled the exchange between quarterback Christian Brooks and Dezmon Walker. Manhattan took over and scored three plays later. On the next drive, Topeka West went three-and-out and attempted a punt, but fumbled the snap, giving Manhattan another short field and another easy score.
Just like that, Manhattan had a two-score lead with 9 minutes to play in the first quarter.
“I think it has everything to do with one bad thing happening and then it just piles on top of each other,” first-year Chargers coach John Tetuan said. “We put our heads down and lost focus — and all of those things aren’t anything Manhattan did. We don’t have to help them out — they’re a good football team. We found a way to give them every chance they possibly could have tonight.”
Topeka West had little chance of producing much against the Manhattan defense, but was even more handicapped by the absence of Montoy Perry, the Chargers’ top rusher, who didn’t play because of what Tetuan called “disciplinary reasons”.
For Manhattan, a vanilla offense that ran the ball on all but one play was plenty against the Chargers, putting up 329 yards on the ground and scoring at will, even when the second and third strings took over.
Darian Taylor got the starting nod at quarterback with Jacob Holloway still out with a leg injury, though Taylor only got one quarter. From then on, it was Kellen Myers at quarterback, with Josh Mullin, Jacob Harden and Michael Leeper getting the bulk of the carries at running back.
Schartz said he expects to have Holloway back at next week.
“Jake is progressing nicely,” he said. “I think he’ll be healthy for next week’s game.”
At the end of the day, the lopsided win for Manhattan on homecoming night may have been a foregone conclusion, but both sides exhibited good sportsmanship. There wasn’t any extra shoving or unnecessary roughness called.
“The officials did a nice job of working the clock, and I was proud of our kids and their kids,” Schartz said. “Everybody was very respectful and showed good sportsmanship. And in games like this, it’s an opportunity for the younger kids to play and get some experience, and I was pleased with that.”
For Tetuan and the reeling Chargers, finding a competitive spark is key going forward.
“We’ve got to keep plugging away and find a fire in us — that pride inside of us,” Tetuan said. “You can’t play football without a little fire and pride and caring about what you’re doing, and right now, at least tonight, we didn’t have that.”
Manhattan hosts Shawnee Heights next Friday in a final tune up before district play starts.