Keenan Schartz scored three touchdowns rushing and Jason Sanchez added two more as No. 1 Manhattan High football outpaced No. 8 Wichita East 48-20 Friday in the regional round of the 6A playoffs.
The Indians (10-0) ran the ball for 432 yards and an average of 8.8 yards per rush as they methodically picked apart the Blue Aces’ defense from start to finish. Manhattan scored on eight of its nine drives, only failing to put up points when it ran out the clock in the fourth quarter.
All of its touchdowns came on the ground.
“Very, very proud of the offensive line,” said head coach Joe Schartz. “We were able to move the football on the ground. Coming in, we just didn’t know what the conditions were going to be. We had the mud offense ready to go and were capable of moving the ball on the ground. They just exerted their will and dominated and won the game for us.”
Keenan Schartz finished with 208 yards rushing on 19 carries. Sanchez went off for 82 yards rushing on 16 attempts, and DeAndre Aukland had 71 yards on the ground on seven carries.
Aukland did not play in the second half, which put more on Sanchez’s plate.
“I can’t say enough about Jason,” Joe Schartz said. “Super, super kid. He missed his sophomore season with a broken collarbone. He missed his junior year with a torn ACL. Just to see him out here, helping his team win and making great plays, it warms my heart.”
Wichita East (6-4) managed to move the ball on the Manhattan defense, using its fast-paced spread offense to roll up 339 total yards, 274 of which came through the air.
However, the Indians were able to get stops on the Blue Aces’ first two possessions, which allowed the Manhattan offense to build up a 17-0 lead by the 7:22 mark of the second quarter thanks to back-to-back TDs by Sanchez and a 20-yard field goal by Braxton Frey.
“It’s always crucial to get stops,” Joe Schartz said. “Our offense didn’t get stopped the whole night. … The defense getting stops allowed us to win the game and get that lead.”
Wichita East got on the board with a 12-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Daeonte Mitchell to Marcus White, which cut the Indians’ advantage to 17-6 with just over two minutes to go before the half.
Frey added a 36-yard field goal in the final minute of the second quarter, giving Manhattan a 17-6 lead at the intermission.
The Blue Aces got the second-half kickoff and used up more than four minutes to go 70 yards, cutting their deficit to a single score when Mitchell found LT Robinson wide open over the middle on third-and-goal from the 14-yard line.
The Indians responded right away, as Keenan Schartz called his own number on the first play of the ensuing drive and ran 72 yards for the score, increasing his team’s lead to 27-12 with 7:17 to go in the third.
“Football is a numbers game,” Joe Schartz said. “The quarterback run game is difficult to stop, especially when you’ve got people up front blocking.”
Undaunted by falling behind by two scores again, Wichita East embarked on another long drive. However, this one ended when Mitchell fumbled the football and Manhattan linebacker Ben Irvine fell on top of it at the Indians' 10-yard line.
Three minutes, 42 seconds and 11 plays later, Keenan Schartz was back in the end zone, this time on a 2-yard carry. Manhattan was back on top by three scores at 34-12 with 11:56 left in the game.
“I think that’s what sealed the deal there,” Joe Schartz said. “Had they gone in and scored, we’d never gain control of the game. You just go back and trade scores. So to get that turnover and that stop, and then go ahead and put points on the board, that’s what sealed the game.”
The Indians forced the Blue Aces into a turnover on downs on their next drive, and Keenan Schartz picked up the hat trick with 4-yard TD carry with 7:03 to go.
After Wichita East went three-and-out, the backups went in and got on the board with a 4-yard carry by Jaydin Hudley to make it 48-12 with just over 3 ½ minutes to play.
Mitchell hit Dayontay Standifer for a 46-yard garbage-time touchdown to bring the contest to its final score.
Despite his gaudy rushing numbers, Keenan Schartz finished just 2-of-6 passing for 31 yards. Joe Schartz said that the weather and a few injuries caused some uncertainties in the passing game, so his team avoided it, although he acknowledged that moving forward they likely wouldn’t be able to do so.
However, focusing so much on the ground game allowed Manhattan to run the clock, dominate the time of possession and limit the number of possessions in the game.
“When you (play against) an explosive offense where they spread it around, the quarterback is able to extend plays and make plays with his arm and his feet — which he did all night long — it was crucial that we kept the ball away from them,” Joe Schartz said.
Mitchell finished the game completing 21-of-32 passes for 274 yards and three touchdowns, as well as adding 34 yards rushing on nine carries.
White led Wichita East in receiving with five catches for 76 yards.
Joe Schartz said that while the defense kept the Blue Aces from scoring a lot of points, it didn’t quite play up to its potential.
“They did move the ball and move the chains,” he said. “They had a good concept. We’ve just got to get back to work and get better. We missed a lot of tackles and let the quarterback break contain. It’s something that we can’t do if we’re going to continue on.”
With the victory, the Indians reached double-digit wins for the fourth time in Joe Schartz’s 14 years and the first time since 2018. It is also the first time they’ve been 10-0 since 2011.
The win also earned them a home rematch with Wichita Northwest — whom they beat 56-28 on Oct. 21 — in the sectional round of the 6A playoffs next week. The Grizzlies (8-2) dismissed Junction City 50-27 on Friday.
“We already have some familiarity with them,” Joe Schartz said. “We’re going to watch that game and we’re going to have to have a few new wrinkles. It’s going to be fun, getting that game plan ready to go.”