TOPEKA — Ask Dayne Aschenbrenner about the way he played in his Manhattan High club’s 32-27 loss to Topeka High Friday night and you won’t get much of an answer.
Twenty-two carries for 143 yards and two touchdowns.
“We had a lot of overload stuff going,” Aschenbrenner said, “and they adjusted to it late, but it worked well for us early.”
Seven of 16 passes for 119 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.
“Even if we think it’s good, it’s got to be better,” he said. “Didn’t work.”
Two touchdown rushes, one for four yards and another for 58.
“We crossed up a little bit — a guy went the wrong way,” Aschenbrenner said, “but then there was a big hole, and I took it.”
The culprit behind Aschenbrenner’s reticence may have been the two interceptions he threw, one of which proved far more costly than the other. Manhattan’s defense followed the first, which came in the third quarter, with a timely stop.
The Indians couldn’t do the same on Aschenbrenner’s second pick. It came in the final stages, when Manhattan was faced with 90 seconds to make up a five-point deficit. No dice — Aschenbrenner’s fourth-down pass was picked off by Donyel Evans.
“We had some different personnel packages in there with some of our defensive players,” Manhattan coach Joe Schartz said. “At that point, we put our first offense in because that is normally who we run our two-minute drill with, so we tried to just go no-huddle, advance and and it got to be third down there. Chandler (Marks) is a tough matchup so we just tried to throw a jump ball there on the sideline to see if we could get a big play.”
Things ended far from ideally for Manhattan, but Aschenbrenner did his part. He supplied big play after big play, including a key third-down conversion in the third quarter and several others over the rest of the contest.
In the first frame, Aschenbrenner hooked up with senior B.J. Young for a 28-yard touchdown pass — on fourth down, no less — to secure a 7-0 lead. Minutes later, he punched it in from four yards out, ballooning the visitors’ lead to 14-0.
Then, in the fourth stanza, Aschenbrenner broke free for 58 yards and a touchdown, good for a 27-20 lead with a shade under six minutes left.
All told, Aschenbrenner logged 143 of Manhattan’s 276 rushing yards, picking up yardages short and long, whichever the Indians needed.
Still, Topeka High’s offense proved too much. Senior quarterback Da’Vonshai Harden, a KU commit, and running back Ky Thomas, a Minnesota commit, combined for 482 yards. In a way, they out-dueled Aschenbrenner.
“How I played doesn’t matter,” Aschenbrenner said. “It’s got to be better. We’ve got to be ready for next Friday.”
Indeed, the Indians have lots of football to play — but this matchup figures to have featured the two teams in the best position to win the Centennial League. Topeka High will now have a leg up on Manhattan in the standings, and maybe, in the league title race.
“It was a big deal for the league,” Aschenbrenner said, “but there’s other titles to play for than the league title.”
Manhattan’s next challenge: a home tilt with Seaman next Friday.
That, more than anything, occupied Aschenbrenner’s mind in the immediate aftermath of Manhattan’s loss to Topeka High.
He knows what the Indians will have to correct, too.
“Less penalties, less turnovers,” Aschenbrenner said. “That’s what we’ve got to do on offense.”