Manhattan High coach Joe Schartz insists his team doesn’t look past anybody.
If there was ever a team to look past, Highland Park last week would make the short list, but the Topeka West Chargers might be at the top.
In two games this year against Centennial League opponents, the Topeka West Chargers are 0-2 and have been outscored 116-14.
Believe it or not, that’s improvement.
The Chargers snapped a 25-game losing streak when they beat KC Washington at home on Sept. 6, giving both the team and first-year coach John Tetuan some much-needed confidence to build on.
“It’s not necessarily about them this week, it’s about us,” Schartz said. “Are we going to get better and continue to gain momentum and be ready to play some tough teams down the road, especially in district?”
Schartz said he thinks this week has the opportunity to set the tone for his team’s final stretch of games, which obviously get more important with each passing week.
“It’s all going to be based upon how the kids view it and take advantage of it,” Schartz said of the team’s opportunity to focus on themselves this week. “It could be a good thing if we take advantage of it. But if we don’t take advantage of it, and go in there and are unfocused and struggle to execute, then it’ll definitely show up in the future. We won’t be fully prepared for other teams.”
Much like last week in the rout of Highland Park, there’s almost no chance of Topeka West springing the upset. Blowout losses to Topeka High and Washburn Rural the last two weeks have revealed the Chargers as a team that still has plenty of fundamentals to learn. In the first half against Rural, the Chargers managed just 5 yards of offense in the fist half and only managed to score because of an electrifying play by running back Montoy Perry. They finished the night with six fumbles.
The Chargers’ quarterback coming into the season, Jonathan Mariani, was lost for the year in the first week, forcing Christian Brooks to step into a tough situation.
Manhattan will potentially have to go without its starting quarterback Jacob Holloway this week, as the senior had to come out of last week’s Highland Park win with a leg injury. Schartz was unsure of whether Holloway would play, though Topeka West doesn’t provide much incentive to rush things along.
“He’s still pretty sore and we’ll have to make a decision as the week goes,” Schartz said. “I’d say he’s 50/50 at best. We’re going to make sure that he’s healthy for the future.”
That leaves Darian Taylor and Kellen Myers to compete for his spot if he can’t play, both of which proved competent in last week’s rout.
“We’re going to look at both Darian and Kellen,” Schartz said. “Both of them do certain things better than the other and both of them showed last week that they’re capable. If we put Darian at quarterback, then we lose him at running back, and so on and so forth. It’s kind of a domino effect.”
While Topeka West isn’t expected to make much noise this year, Tetuan represents a shot at success in the future. The first-year coach was a proven winner in his playing days at Topeka Hayden, taking the 1998 Wildcats to a 13-0 championship season as quarterback.
Schartz was in Topeka at that time going to college, so he knows the name.
“I went to college at Washburn in Topeka, and I think at that time he was in high school at Hayden,” he said. “He was a great athlete there at Hayden High School. I believe he went and played baseball at Wichita State.”
Tetuan was an All-America pitcher for the Shockers while also playing professionally in the Colorado Rockies’ system.
The hope at Topeka West is that Tetuan can bring some of his on-field success and confidence to a team desperate to return to winning ways. The Chargers’ losing streak on the football field tracked all the way back to 2009 before the win earlier this month.
The long losing streak in Centennial League games continues to accumulate, and Manhattan aims to keep it going while continuing to improve as a team.
“We have to get better,” Schartz said. “Are we good enough to win our district? I don’t know, but we definitely won’t be if we don’t take this opportunity to get better.”