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MHS faces tough game with T-Birds

By Grant Guggisberg

This week it’s back to reality for the Manhattan Indians.

After outscoring their opponents 125-6 the last two weeks, the Indians are done playing teams their JV team could beat.

Shawnee Heights makes the trip to Manhattan Friday for a 7 p.m. kickoff between two teams that pride themselves on two things: a stout defense and a rushing offense.

At 2-3, the T-Birds’ record doesn’t necessarily indicate the type of team they are.

Shawnee Heights has played a tough schedule to start the year and has been on the short end of several close games this season, giving undefeated league-title favorites Topeka High and Emporia all they could handle, finishing within a touchdown in both low-scoring losses.

Shawnee Heights strength is in its defense, which is allowing just 16 points per game and only 231 yards a game. That’s without the added statistical benefit of playing Topeka West or Highland Park, much less both.

Fortunately, Manhattan has a pair of key players returning from injury this week, just in time to tune things up before district next week.

“Our offense has their work cut out for them,” Schartz said. “We’ve got to find some ways to run the football, and of course Jake (Holloway)‘s back, and we’ve got Bret Fehr back at receiver. So we’ve got a couple guys back healthy and there’s no doubt that we’re going to have to find a way to throw the football.”

But finding a fluid passing game could be tough for a quarterback who hasn’t seen any game action for nearly three weeks.

“It’s not like Jake can just come back after missing two weeks and play without any rust,” Schartz said. “There will be some, but hopefully we have a good week of practice here so he can be prepared and have a good game.”

Schartz said having players face injuries and adversity can end up being a positive in the long run, assuming the players who pick up the slack continue to get better.

“It’s kind of a domino effect,” Schartz said. “We get Jake back, then we can put Darian (Taylor) back at running back, which helps us. Even before he got hurt, Fehr was our number one target and then in his absence, Devin Cossman has developed a little bit at the receiver position.

“So as you go through this adversity during the season, oftentimes people step up and it inevitably makes the team better.”

With a big, physical offensive line, Shawnee Heights prefers to run the ball and keep the score low. Tailback Michael Moten has rushed for more than 500 yards this season.

“Moten’s rolling up a lot of yards,” Schartz said. “He’s 5-foot-7, 140 pounds, but he’s real quick, gets behind a big line and finds the crease.”

Facing a running team will have a tendency to eat up clock and keep the ball out of Holloway’s hands on offense, meaning it’s up to the defense to make plays.

“We’re really counting on our defense to step up and slow them down,” Schartz said. “We need to create some turnovers and give our offense some extra chances.”

For Manhattan, a week full of distractions doesn’t make Schartz’s job any easier as he gets his team prepared. It’s homecoming night at Bishop Stadium on Friday.

“It is a challenge, but typically we’ve done a good job of keeping our focus during homecoming,” Schartz said. “I hope that this group is able to continue that tradition of keeping the focus during homecoming week.”

Schartz said there’s no chance of his team looking past the T-Birds, despite the fact that games count for much more starting next week with district play.

“No, I think our kids are hungry,” he said. “I think they’re ready to show what they can do against a high-quality opponent.”

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