EMPORIA — The streak is over.
After 28 consecutive regular-season wins, the Manhattan High football team managed just 98 yards of offense in a 21-0 shutout loss to Emporia Friday night.
“Offensively, we looked like the inexperienced team that I knew we had,” MHS head coach Joe Schartz said. “Emporia showed a different, more aggressive defense and we weren’t able to make the adjustments on the fly. And that comes with an inexperienced quarterback and an inexperienced team.
“We were not ready for this level of competition in Week 2.”
The Manhattan defense hung in there against an Emporia squad — ranked No. 4 in 5A — with offensive weapons to spare, but couldn’t stop the Spartans from making several big plays that proved to be the difference.
The dagger came in the third quarter, when Emporia quarterback Braxton Marstall hit JL Savage in stride for a 50-yard touchdown, just four plays after Manhattan went 3-and-out — all Jacob Holloway incompletions — to start the second half.
“Down two touchdowns at halftime, there’s still a lot of time,” Schartz said. “What we really needed to do was come out and jumpstart our offense early while we had the wind. We tried to take some shots down the field, and we had some things and we just missed them. We were off with our timing.
“Once we weren’t able to get a quick start in the second half, that pretty much sealed our fate.”
In the first half, it was all Emporia with running back Dylan Jackson leading the charge. The senior racked up 93 yards while scoring both Spartan touchdowns to give Emporia a 14-0 edge at the half.
The Manhattan defense was better in the second half, limiting the passing game of the Spartans, but it was too little too late, especially on a night when the offense was struggling.
“They faced a power offense this week that went right at them, and they did very well,” Schartz said of his defense. “To give up 21 points versus a team like that is a job well done. Now is there still room for improvement? Of course.”
As bad as things looked for Manhattan, things could have been much worse. Emporia would have had a bigger lead had it not been for four fumbles and several penalties that hurt its momentum.
After dazzling in his debut as varsity quarterback last Friday against Mill Valley, Holloway came back to earth against the Spartans. He completed just five passes on 15 attempts while throwing an interception and no touchdowns.
He took plenty of hits on the ground, too, but unlike last week, was unable to break away for any long touchdowns. His longest rush of the night was for 14 yards, and adding in his sacks, he finished with a team-high 29 rushing yards.
“They took away our power option and they didn’t let our quarterback run the ball, and we weren’t able to get any production from other people,” Schartz said. “We got dominated up front as well. You name it, it went wrong on offense. Turnovers, penalties — it was just a very frustrating night offensively.”
Emporia was led by Jackson’s 130 rushing yards. Marstall finished with 105 yards through the air and one touchdown. Manhattan was solid in limiting Oklahoma State commit Jerel Morrow to just one catch for 10 yards in the first quarter, though they gave up a pair of long passes to Savage on the other side of the field.
It’s been more than three seasons since Manhattan has had less than an entire offseason to prepare for its next game after a loss.
With the streak over and a defeat in the books, how will the team respond?
“We have to get better,” Schartz said. “We don’t have any other choice. The real question is will this team step up to the challenge?
“We’ve got another opportunity next week against Seaman, this is a great opportunity to learn from our mistakes and get better, now the question is, will we?”
• H-back Winston Dimel made his 2012 debut Friday night as he continues to heal from an offseason shoulder surgery. He didn’t have any catches, but was running routes and seeing plenty of playing time.
“He’s a competitor,” Schartz said. “He battled tonight and we were happy to have him on the field.”
• Friday’s loss marked the first time Manhattan has been shut out in a game since a 27-0 loss to Blue Valley to open the 2005 season.
• Manhattan’s last regular-season loss prior to Friday was on Oct. 31, 2008, to Junction City.