DERBY — Manhattan High’s football season ended Friday night in a familiar setting. The Indians romped through their competition for eight consecutive weeks. Then they ran into the brick wall that is Derby.
The top-ranked Panthers shut out the Indians 56-0, prompting another somber conclusion for Manhattan head coach Joe Schartz and his team.
The Manhattan (9-2) players filed out of the locker room at Panthers Stadium gradually. It was 35 degrees, and the only sounds were shivers and sniffles.
Consoling family members and friends and greeted players with soft-spoken words of affirmation.
Schartz made sure his team knew how he felt first. He was consistent with his message.
“I told the whole team before we left the locker room that I was proud of them,” Schartz said. “I told them the same thing after the game. Just because you lost the game doesn’t mean it changes who you are. It doesn’t change the type of sacrifice and effort that has gone into the season for everyone involved. I’m proud of what we accomplished, and I’m proud of the seniors and the way that they represented the program and carried on the tradition.”
Derby (11-0) ended Manhattan’s season for the third consecutive year, this time in convincing fashion. The Panthers scored 21 points in the first and second quarters, dropping the Indians in a 42-point hole at the half.
Tre Washington, Derby’s star running back, was responsible for most of the damage. Washington finished his night with 11 rushes for 132 yards and three touchdowns, all of which came in the first half.
“He’s a good football player,” Schartz said of Washington. “He’s got a lot of speed, and his athleticism is difficult to stop.”
A key objective for Schartz and his team was to tackle Derby’s stars in open space. Manhattan got plenty of hands on Washington, and quarterbacks Grant Adler and Len Wash, but the three broke away from those attempted takedowns most of the evening.
Manhattan didn’t fold, though. The Indians created several opportunities on big plays. The Indians recorded consecutive sacks from Damian Ilalio and Tyce Hoover on the second defensive drive of the game, but couldn’t move the ball on offense.
“Those were big plays, and it was a couple good plays in a row,” Schartz said. “We had another time where we pressured him and actually got a turnover and would’ve had great field position, but a penalty nullified that play.”
This was a constant for Derby all season. The Panthers scored at will and showed composure and tenacity defensively. Manhattan entered the game on a hot streak offensively, too. Quarterback Dayne Aschenbrenner, a junior, was playing his best football and mixing his passing and running abilities better than he ever had since becoming the MHS starter.
Yet the Panthers remain a different animal. The defending champions, and victors of four of the past six Class 6A state titles — with two more playoff wins, they can capture a fifth crown in six seasons — had the answers for Aschenbrenner and the Manhattan offense.
Manhattan had a couple big plays — the Indians completed a 27-yard pass, a 53-yard pass and a 32-yard pass. However, the scoring Manhattan previously had enjoyed all season was hard to come by Friday. The biggest rushing play of the evening for the Indians was an 11-yard gain by Aschenbrenner in the second half.
“(Derby) just lines up and plays football really well,” Schartz said. “They played really well tonight.”
One of the toughest parts of Schartz’s job when the season ends is helping his players understand what they accomplished, he said. The Indians went on an eight-game winning-streak, topped tough opponents in Junction City and Lawrence-Free State, and were regional champs in the playoffs.
“You have to keep things in perspective,” Schartz said. “We accomplished a lot, and obviously it hurts every year when the season ends and you don’t win a state championship. But these kids came together as a team and will remember the good times. That’s what I want them to remember, but it will take some time to get over.”
Manhattan 0 0 0 0 — 0
Derby 21 21 14 0 — 56
Derby – Washington 12 run (kick good), 10:58
Derby – Washington 35 run (kick good), 6:24
Derby – Washington 2 run (kick good), 0:09
Derby – Liston 47 pass from Adler (kick good), 10:02
Derby – Wash 31 run (kick good), 4:41
Derby – Wash 40 run (kick good), 2:07
Derby – Walker 39 pass from Wash (kick good), 8:59
Derby – Simms 24 run (kick good), 0:00
RUSHING — Manhattan: Aschenbrenner 18-51, Young 10-28, Wilhoite 1-1 // Derby: Washington 11-132, Wash 4-84, Adler 4-66, Simms 3-86
PASSING — Manhattan: Aschenbrenner 5-17-1-117 , Derby: Adler 1-2-0-47, Wash 1-2-0-39, Thatcher 0-4-0-0
RECEIVING — Manhattan: Higgins 1-53, Wilhoite 1-32, Reid 1-27, Young 2-5 // Derby: Liston 1-47, Walker 1-39