Joe Schartz pointed out how late high school football is starting in 2019. Green Bay and Chicago open the NFL season Thursday night, and as Schartz said, it’s pretty rare the pros get going before high school. Manhattan has its first game 24 hours later, Friday night at Olathe Northwest.
The Indians’ opener mirrors 2018: Schartz’s squad crushed the Ravens 42-7. He’s been talking about this matchup for a few weeks now because he knows the opponent will want redemption. He said his team can’t get too comfortable.
“We don’t know a whole lot about them,” Schartz said. “We did play them last year, but they have a new defensive coordinator this year, so we are expecting a different defense. We were able to go watch them last Friday night at their jamboree and scouted them, but I’m sure they were very vanilla.”
So what do you do in the first game of the season when there isn’t much of a scouting report for either team? Schartz wants his team to limit mistakes, because that’s the best place to start. If the Indians can avoid undisciplined penalties, protect the football and create more turnovers than they commit, that’s going to give them a good chance. But that goes for every football game.
While MHS is still figuring out the Ravens’ defense, he has a feel for the offense.
“We know that they are going to want to run option football, and a lot of it (comes) out of the gun and play-action pass,” Schartz said. “We know they have a very good wide receiver who is going to be a tough matchup because of his size. So we know that we are going to have to do some things to take that weight off.”
If the Indians are going to be hurt anywhere, it’s accounting for the run too much, giving Olathe Northwest an opportunity to throw it over the top. But the Indians know this, Schartz said, so it comes down to execution.
The Indians also have some of their most seasoned and talented players in spots that are crucial to stopping the option. Senior Nate Hanson and Jacob Hirschey are two talented defensive players who are proven, but Schartz still doesn’t expect perfection.
“We do have some senior leadership and some senior experience, and those guys are going to have to step up, but they aren’t seniors yet,” Schartz said. “This is the first time they’ve stepped on the field as seniors. We anticipate some growing pains, and it’s not going to be perfect. But hopefully we can make steady improvement.”
The Indians want to run the football — that’s never been much of a secret — so getting the offensive line, led by senior Sam Shields, going early is going to be critical Schartz said.
Running the football worked plenty when the two teams met in 2018. The Indians had four rushing touchdowns in the game, two of which came from then-senior running back Kevontae McDonald. McDonald had 126 yards on 19 carries behind an offensive line that dominated.
The Indians have prepped all summer and fall for 7 p.m. Friday night. At this point, it’s just about getting started.
“I think it’s time that we need to see somebody else,” Schartz said. “The kids continue to get better everyday. We are nowhere close to where we need to be as far as coming together as a team and everybody being the perfect leader. But the kids are getting better everyday and that’s all we are asking right now. It’s time to go see an off-colored jersey and see what we have as far as the 2019 Indians.”