TOPEKA — “Leave it all on the field.”
Those were the words Manhattan High coach Joe Schartz used to challenge his players before the team’s 32-27 loss to Topeka High Friday night. The game featured frenzied, back-and-forth scoring that was expected, boasting a No. 2 (Topeka) and No. 8 (Manhattan) collision in Class 6A.
But it was so much more.
“It sure did (live up to the hype),” Schartz said. “I’m very proud of my team, and they competed valiantly, and we don’t have anything to hang our heads about. It’s just about getting better and what a valuable experience to play in a big game earlier in the season.”
Manhattan against Topeka was going to be a clash of Kansas high school football titans regardless of whether there were confusing penalties, touchdowns taken away or the entirety of Hummer Sports Park booing in a state of disarray.
And this all happened before the second half.
Manhattan had a six-point lead going into the half secured until Topeka’s star running back, Ky Thomas, caught a pass and had a head full of steam down the right sideline. The Indians were getting torched in the air and Thomas had a touchdown.
Touchdown, as in, the points were on the board and he made it into the end zone with the ball in his hands.
But during the play, he turned around, running at a half-speed, as Manhattan’s Chandler Marks gave chase. Marks, stared down by the trotting Thomas, pushed the running back as he reached the end-zone.
The Topeka kicking crew went out for an extra point, but had to settle for a field goal after penalties were called on both teams, one for unsportsmanlike conduct (Topeka) and another for unnecessary roughness (Manhattan).
Topeka head coach Walt Alexander was visibly upset with the officiating, as it took nearly 15 minutes for the final three seconds of the half to finish. Both teams and the officials retreated to the locker room to a flood of boos. Again, it was only halftime.
“They said it was offsetting penalties and since it was that, with a penalty on them, they took the touchdown off the board,” Schartz said. “It’s history now. The touchdown was taken off the board, and we benefited from that.”
Topeka High came out of the locker room firing, feeding Thomas on most downs to march down the field all the way to the Manhattan 10-yard line. Thomas even reached the end zone once, but the play was called back for holding.
Manhattan took advantage of this, and forced a fourth down. Topeka settled for a field goal, but the game was tied and Manhattan’s once two-touchdown lead evaporated.
Manhattan started to put together a response drive, but junior quarterback Dayne Aschenbrenner, who finished with 144 rushing yards and 119 passing yards, threw an interception that gave Topeka a shot for its first lead. Manhattan got the stop, and Aschenbrenner responded with a monster 58-yard touchdown with 5:46 left in the fourth quarter.
Manhattan looked in complete control, getting key stops and scoring fast. But Topeka had the answer. It was Thomas.
The University of Minnesota commit exploded for a 74-yard touchdown on the ground to start the drive, but the PAT was missed. Manhattan not only had life, but still had the lead with 5:24.
However, Manhattan squandered the opportunity and had to punt. Topeka seized this opportunity and took control.
Thomas and Topeka senior quarterback Da’Vonshai Harden connected for a 37-yard pass to get the Trojans a few yards from the end zone. Thomas punched in a touchdown to give Topeka a five-point lead with 1:21 left on the game.
“Harden and Thomas are very talented as well as a lot of their other players,” Schartz said. “Those guys are seniors and have started a lot of high school football games and stepped up and made plays when they had to, so hats off to them.”
Aschenbrenner and the Indians had little to score a touchdown. Passing the ball was a must, and they struggled mightily to do such in the second half.
“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 it got to be third down there,” Schartz said. “Chandler 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.”
Manhattan 27, Topeka 32
MHS 14 6 0 7 — 41
Topeka 7 10 3 12 — 7
Manhattan — Young 28 pass, (PAT good) 11:33
Manhattan — Aschenbrenner 4 rush (PAT good), 6:07
Topeka — Thomas 5 rush (PAT good), 1:52
Topeka — Thomas 4 rush (PAT good), 9:42
Manhattan — Young 60 rush (PAT no good) 6:37
Topeka — 25-yard field goal 3.8 seconds
Topeka — 20-yard field goal, 8:33
Manhattan — Aschenbrenner 58 rush (PAT good), 5:46
Manhattan — Thomas 74 rush (PAT good), 5:24
Topeka — Thomas 7 rush (PAT good), 1:21
RUSHING — Manhattan: Aschenbrenner 22-143, Young 9-100, Wilhoit 4-33 // Topeka: Thomas 26-238, Harden 14-5, Smith 1-(-4)
PASSING — Manhattan: Aschenbrenner 7-16-2 119, Topeka: Harden 11-17-0 224
RECEIVING — Manhattan: Young 2-64, Hoover 3-18, Reid 1-14, Marks 1-10 // Topeka: Thomas 3-111, Williams 3-90, Smith 4-64, Deeter 1-12, Holloman 1-7