Screams of victorious jubilation echoed out of the locker rooms at Bishop Stadium Friday night following Manhattan High’s homecoming game versus Washburn Rural.
The screams came not from the Indians side of the locker room as it had come after each game in the five weeks prior but instead from the visitor’s side housing a Junior Blues team that knocked off mighty Manhattan 21-14 in a game laden with missed opportunities and uncharacteristic mistakes.
MHS, ranked No. 4 in Class 6A in the latest Kpreps.com rankings, committed five turnovers. The Indians (5-1) also came up empty on multiple drives. It added up to an unhappy homecoming night.
”We you lose the turnover battle it’s tough to win games,” Schartz said. “Especially against a good team. We’ve got to clean that up.”
An early turnover — a fumbled option pitch by Manhattan junior quarterback Keenan Schartz — set up Washburn Rural for the first score of the night just a couple plays later.
Junior Blues quarterback Branton DeWeese found 6-foot-2 senior wide receiver Robby Bolin for a 38-yard touchdown down the Indian sideline.
The Indians responded immediately.
Senior running back Vinny Smith found a crease up the middle on the ensuing kickoff and blazed down the field, maneuvering and outrunning every single Junior Blue defender on the way to a 99-yard return for a touchdown, tying the score at seven midway through the first quarter.
Both teams traded punts before the Junior Blues put together an 80-yard drive to start the quarter that ended with a 5-yard touchdown for Ma’kenttis Adams.
Once again, the Indians had a response.
Manhattan marched 70 yards, converting a third-and-long and a fourth-and-medium on Schartz passes to junior Braxton Frey and senior Joe Hall. Schartz called his own number on an option-keeper from four yards out and crossed the goal line, leveling the score at 14.
The Indians forced a Washburn Rural punt on the next Junior Blues drive thanks to a Jaxon Vikander sack on third down with three minutes to play in the half.
But a muffed punt by Colby Klieman gave Rural the ball back at the Manhattan 40.
The Indians defense held strong, though, preventing the Junior Blues from capitalizing on the short field — highlighted by a key sack from senior Talique Houston.
The teams went into the locker room knotted at 14.
The Junior Blues (5-1) hit the ground running to start the second half, as Adams gashed the Indians for two big gains to advance deep into Manhattan territory.
But, just like the end of the first, Manhattan’s defense tightened up, eventually forcing Washburn Rural to go for it on fourth down. The visitors did not convert, as Vikander and senior E.J. Whitfield brought down DeWeese for another sack.
Manhattan did not capitalize on the turnover-on-downs, and punted the ball back to the Junior Blues.
However, the ball bounced off the hand of Washburn’s returner.
MHS junior defensive back Dante Walters was in the right place at the right time, falling on the ball to give the hosts possession at the Washburn Rural 23.
Manhattan’s offense couldn’t get anything going, so they tried a 42-yard field goal from senior kicker Grant Snowden.
The attempt missed, capping a scoreless quarter for both sides.
”That one really hurt,” Schartz said about not capitalizing on Washburn Rural’s fumble. “We really needed to get something on the board there, even if it was a field goal.“
Washburn Rural broke the 20-plus minute scoring drought by cashing in on a 66-yard drive with a 1-yard run by DeWeese.
The Indians appeared poised to respond on the ensuing drive after Hall made an incredible catch on a 31-yard pass from Schartz.
But several plays following that, Bolin picked off Schartz.
The Washburn Rural passing attack ate the Indians alive Friday night after coming in with one of the top secondaries in the state. DeWeese went 18-22 for 198 yards including seven catches for 101 yards for Bolin.
”We knew Bolin was good player,” Schartz said. “He was an all-league player last year. He played to that level tonight.”
The Indians had to lean heavily on their passing attack in the second half as Washburn Rural’s defense stifled the MHS ground game, holding them to 74 yards on 26 attempts, which had been one of the best in the state through five games.
”I feel like we weren’t as physical up front, offensive or defensive line,” Schartz said. “When we can’t run the football, we’re not a very good offense.”
The Indians forced another Washburn Rural punt after Schartz’s interception and started their next drive on the right foot with a 20-yard pass to Frey but on a third-and-5, Schartz rolled out to his right to avoid the Junior Blues pressure.
He threw the ball up for grabs while being tackled.
Washburn Rural defender Connor Conklin plucked the ball out of the sky, essentially sealing the victory for the visitors.
Manhattan had one final shot at a Hail Mary touchdown, but a long heave in Hall’s direction ended with another interception on a double-pass by Kyler Hahn.
”We’ve faced adversity in games leading up to today but this is the first time that we’ve faced real adversity and lost a game,” Schartz said. “So it’s a choice right now. We can point fingers and make excuses or we can get back to work and get better.”
The Indians will try to regroup next week, as they hit the road to take on Topeka West.
WASHBURN RURAL 21,
W. Rural 7 7 0 7
Manhattan 7 7 0 0
Washburn Rural — Bolin 38-yard catch from DeWeese (PAT Good) 7:24
Manhattan — Smith 99-yard kick return (PAT Good) 7:14
Washburn Rural — Adams 5-yard run (PAT Good) 11:00
Manhattan — Schartz 4-yard run (PAT Good) 5:13
Washburn Rural — DeWeese 1-yard run (PAT Good) 9:46
RUSHING — Manhattan: Smith 10-25, Schartz 13-38, Houston 1-5, Edwards 1-0, Hall 1-6. Washburn Rural: Adams 23-117, Heim 2-18, DeWeese 12--5.
PASSING — Manhattan: Schartz 12-18-2 109. Washburn Rural: DeWeese 18-22-0 198.
RECEIVING — Manhattan: Frey 2-34, Bowles 2-33, Hall 7-32, Hahn 1-10. Washburn Rural: Bolin 7-101, Sabbarini 4-63, Tibbetts 1-22, Adams 3-9, Osburn 1-2, Hanks 2-1.