When Joe Schartz came to Manhattan in 2004, he knew what he was getting into.
Hired to round out the varsity staff after serving as offensive coordinator in Dodge City for three seasons, the current Manhattan High football coach had seen first-hand how good the Indians program was.
“I told Coach (Butch) Albright when I interviewed here, I grew up in Dodge City and graduated from Dodge City High School, and I remember attending those playoff games, with Manhattan,” Schartz said. “The thing that always made an impression on me was Manhattan’s defense. They just had some monster linebackers and they really dominated Dodge City. So I was aware of the tradition at this high school, and it was definitely intriguing.”
Over the summer in 2004, Schartz was named offensive coordinator. After five seasons working under Albright, he was named head coach, tasked with the responsibility of carrying on Manhattan High’s 40-year run of dominance going back all the way to J.W. Emerson’s time as head coach.
Since then, Schartz has more than done his part, starting his career with a 30-3 record in three seasons and sporting an astounding winning percentage of more than .800 through the first part of this year. They clinched a fifth straight league title this year.
Lew Lane and Albright, among others, appreciate what Schartz has done in carrying it on: “They’ve got a good one up there,” Lane said. “Joe’s a good football coach.”
Over the years, Schartz has put his own stamp on the program, as most coaches do. But the basics the program — built on strong defense, a punishing rushing attack and a focus on strength and conditioning — remain unchanged.
“There were definitely things that needed to be the same, just because of the tremendous success over the years,” Schartz said of his changes to the program. “The one thing that I appreciated and has been established in this program is the work ethic in the summertime. I didn’t have to push, or convince the community that that needed to be done. The community already knew that that’s how you have to do it in order to be successful. They established that and carried it on and we’re doing our best to carry on that tradition.”
Schartz said participation remains strong in the offseason and the team still takes pride in one of Emerson’s most noted innovations from more than 40 years ago.
“One of the things that we do is the 50 40s,” Schartz said, referring to 50 repetitions of 40-yard sprints. “We still do that, and the kids take pride in it. It’s definitely tough and it’s more mentally stressing than physically.”
Schartz has also developed a consistency within his coaching staff, one of the staples of Emerson, Lane and Albright before him.
“I was fortunate enough when I became head coach that I retained the entire coaching staff from Coach Albright,” Schartz said. “I remember having a meeting and told them all that I’d be honored if they would all stay. And they did. We have people on the staff that have been here for years and years and they’re very good coaches.
“I think, to me, the No. 1 reason that we’ve had great success over the years is the consistency in the coaching staff. Everybody knows what to expect.”
MHS athletics director Mike Marsh, who played quarterback for Lane and graduated in 1983, said Schartz “has the same characteristics” of Lane, Albright and Emerson. “Joe has kept many, many traditions…the attitude, the work ethic, and what it is to be a Manhattan High Indian and wear that football helmet. He understands what’s all involved, believe me.”
With 10 years in the program, Schartz has established himself enough to begin creating his own legacy as one of the great coaches in Manhattan’s rich history.