OLATHE — Joe Schartz ran several strides onto the field before taking the first of many leaps, fist pumping in the air and spinning in a circle. Schartz, Manhattan High’s football head coach, had just watched junior quarterback Dayne Aschenbrenner throw a 25-yard strike to senior Tyler Higgins in the middle of the end zone in the second quarter of Manhattan’s 41-7 win at Olathe Northwest in the season opener.
Higgins was the root cause of the exuberant reaction from the normally reserved Schartz. He’s a three-sport athlete, balancing baseball, basketball, and now, Schartz’s team.
“Tyler is quite an athlete,” Schartz said. “Tyler has been in our weight class ever since he was a sophomore and he’s performed well. We’ve been after him and he’s been quite an addition to our team.”
Schartz was consistent in trying to get Higgins on the team, a good representation of the Manhattan football tradition. Grinding out the hard work will show results. That was the story Friday night.
For five minutes, it appeared there could be a barn-burner between the Indians and the Ravens. Aschenbrenner, who finished the night with 199 rushing yards and four total touchdowns (one passing), broke free for a 60-yard touchdown on the ground to start the scoring on the opening drive of the game. The Ravens responded with a touchdown themselves.
That is, until a 20-yard face mask penalty decimated their drive and momentum.
From there on out, everything belonged to the Indians (1-0). There were a plethora of holding penalties and a couple false starts, but that didn’t play too much of a factor considering the Manhattan rushing attack was virtually unstoppable. The Indians ended the first half with 27 points, three of which came on Aschenbrenner touchdowns, one in the air and two on the ground.
The scoring was flashy, but the Manhattan defense was the catalyst. The Indians recovered two fumbles in the red zone to set up the easy scores and prevented the Ravens (0-1) from completing passes or making much progress down the field.
“(The defense) did a real nice job,” Schartz said. “We have some experience up front in Damian Ilalio, Darius O’Connell and DaShawn Edwards. It’s a pretty formidable defensive front.”
The biggest blemish on the Manhattan side was the penalties. That part of their game wasn’t pretty, as the Indians committed 12 penalties for 104 yards.
“I expected growing pains coming in, and we saw that,” Schartz said. “There were a lot of mistakes, and I told the kids that it shows where our program is to win a game 41-7 and be a little bit upset about our performance, because we know we can play better.”
The penalties set back several Manhattan drives, but the defense was a brick wall. The line forced three Olathe Northwest fumbles, and Tyce Hoover chimed in with an interception in the second half. Aschenbrenner had two interceptions himself, but both passes were tipped by his own receivers.
Where the Manhattan offense chugged along was on the ground. Along with Aschenbrenner’s monster night was BJ Young, who had 135 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
“It all starts up front, and when our offensive line got off the ball we gained yards,” Schartz said. “I think we would’ve continued that but we just kept shooting ourselves in the foot with penalties. We start and get in a hole and get behind the chains and couldn’t get first downs. A lot of that comes down to penalties.”
While the offense looked strong and the defense even more consistent, the penalties will have to be minimized next week.
Manhattan heads to Hummer Sports Park to play a talented Topeka High team, its chief competition for the Centennial League title.
“It’s one day at a time,” Schartz said. “We need to go in and clean up the mistakes and continue to get better. If we can do that and have a good week of practice, it’s going to be a heck of a football game.”
Olathe Northwest 7
Manhattan 14 13 0 14 — 41
Olathe NW 0 0 7 0 — 7
Manhattan — Aschenbrenner 60 rush, (PAT good) 11:58
Manhattan — Young 7 rush (PAT good), 4:07
Manhattan — Higgins 25 pass from Aschenbrenner (PAT good), 14:07
Manhattan — Aschenbrenner 1 rush (PAT failed), 10:48
Olathe Northwest — Aschenbrenner 17 INT return (PAT good), 9:38
Manhattan — Young 4 rush (PAT good), 10:59
Manhattan — Aschenbrenner 60 rush (PAT good), 9:29
RUSHING — Manhattan: Aschenbrenner 15-199, Young 13-135, Reid 4-13, Wilhoit 6-7, Florez 1-(-1) // Olathe Northwest: Bolden 6-35, Brown 5-22, Becker 4-21, Sadler 11-11, Logan, 2-1, Evans 4-10
PASSING — Manhattan: Aschenbrenner 1-8-2 25, Olathe Northwest: Sadler 3-11-1 54
RECEIVING — Manhattan: Higgins 1-25, Olathe Northwest: Anderson 3-49