With just two short weeks until district games start, the Manhattan High football team has been working hard on fixing its biggest deficiencies.
So far, the biggest question marks have come on offense, where the Indians have struggled at times to hold onto the football and consistently move the chains.
Head coach Joe Schartz said he hopes the offense can take the next step when Manhattan hosts Topeka West Friday night at Bishop Stadium.
“We need to just be able to move the chains methodically,” he said. “I’d like to see us take control of the time of possession and methodically move the ball down the field with the run game. That’s our goal and I hope that we can get there, and we need to get there quickly because we just have two weeks before district.”
Schartz was quick to point out that progress was made against the Highland Park Scots a week ago.
“One of the main goals for the offense has been to limit the turnovers, and I think last week, we didn’t have any turnovers,” he said. “So those are positives. I think that we are continuing to make strides as a team and get better, and that’s what you want as a coach and a coaching staff. We seem to be getting that out of our kids, but we still have a ways to go.”
History would suggest the game against Topeka West would offer the chance for Manhattan (3-1, 3-0 Centennial) to find success on offense. The Chargers have already ensured more wins than in any season since 2005 with two.
But since those two wins, the team has struggled to score in the red zone and the defense has allowed an average of 58.5 points per game in two league matchups. While the results haven’t been encouraging the last two weeks, Schartz sees the Topeka West program as one on the rise after last year’s campaign that included only one win, but did away with the team’s 25-game losing streak that spanned parts of four seasons.
“I think they’re getting better,” Schartz said. “They’ve won a couple games this year and they’re ready to get to the next step for their program, which is to beat somebody that they’re not supposed to beat. So I know they’ll be sky-high for this opportunity to play us, and we need to be equally motivated and make sure we come out on top in this contest.”
Topeka West (2-2, 0-2) features a junior at quarterback in Josh Reynolds and a senior at running back in Mose Hugghis. The Chargers’ top receiver is Montoy Perry, who has 20 catches and more than 200 yards this season, but has yet to score a touchdown.
The Chargers’ offense played well in wins against KC Schlagle and KC Washington, but has sputtered against Centennial League defenses the last two weeks. Last week against Washburn Rural, West had several opportunities to score but struggled in the red zone.
Schartz said he expects the Chargers’ passing game to test his defense.
“They like to spread the ball around,” he said. “Their quarterback is 6-foot-5, 200. They like to throw the ball and go with a lot of empty sets on offense and they like to spread the ball around and get the ball out quick. So they’ll go five-wide or just a single back with their run game.
“It’s going to be a challenge, they’re going to spread the field on offense and we’ll have to show we can cover, and that’s something we have to get better at as a defense, covering multiple wide receivers.”
Defensively, the Chargers have struggled to keep opponents off the scoreboard. Schartz said he expects them to be aggressive and blitz often.
“They play a base 4-2 defense with a lot of blitzing,” he said. “They’re going to be bringing at least two or three linebackers every time. That seems to be their philosophy. They’ll play man coverage and bring the heat, so when we line up to spread them out, they’re going to try and bring more people than we can block. When we go to our power sets, they have the capability of being aggressive and slowing us down in the run game, too.”
With Manhattan opening the season with three out of four games on the road, the Indians are ready to get back to Bishop Stadium for homecoming weekend.
“I think that we’re just excited for the opportunity to be at home and play in front of the home crowd again,” Schartz said. “We’ve been on the road three out of four weeks, so it’ll be nice to play at Bishop Stadium.”
Kick off is set for 7 p.m.