A battle of two ground-based attacks came out in decided favor of the visiting side during Emporia High’s 35-12 homecoming defeat at the hands of Manhattan Friday evening at Welch Stadium.
EHS was held to less than 80 yards of total offense on the night, suffering four three-and-outs and a turnover along the way in a game that lasted barely over two hours.
“They did the same thing to us on the offensive end as they did the defensive end,” Emporia High Head Coach Corby Milleson said. “They’re stronger, faster and they played more physical than we did tonight.”
The Indians offense benefitted from an opening period in which the Spartans had only one first down, beginning touchdown drives from their own 48-, 41- and the EHS 25-yard line after a fumble by Spartans senior quarterback John Miller at the 3:30 mark. The scoreboard read 21-0 in favor of Manhattan at the end of the first quarter after a 14-yard rushing touchdown from senior B.J. Young and two more ground scores from quarterback Dayne Aschenbrenner.
The Spartans built on their only first down of the quarter, continuing their drive for 12 more plays and reaching the end zone on a 6-yard rush from Miller. Four Indians lineman forced a rushed PAT miss, bringing the score to 21-6 with a bit more than seven minutes remaining before half.
“We put Beau Baumgardner in at tailback, and he certainly gave us a spark,” Milleson said. “He’s mentally tough and a physically tough running back. If I had my way, we wouldn’t have played him as much as we did last week against Legend High and tonight, because we certainly need him on the defensive end as well. When you have a running back that will lower his shoulder and get you those yards after contact, that always inspires an offensive line.”
Emporia High was unable to build any momentum on the defensive side of the ball after its score however, allowing Aschenbrenner’s third rushing touchdown of the night after a lengthy 10-play drive that took more than five minutes off the clock. After a stalled drive by each team, the Spartans headed into the locker room down 28-6.
The Spartans enjoyed their first bit of defensive success to begin the second half, forcing a turnover on downs deep in their own territory to regain possession at the 8-minute mark. They then held the Indians to a three-and-out on their next drive. The stops didn’t immediately translate to points though, as it took Emporia High until the 30-second mark to put points on the board.
The score read 28-12 after a 23-yard touchdown reception by junior Kadyn Williams — and a stuffed two-point try — but the Spartans were immediately put under pressure after a long Indians pass brought Manhattan into EHS territory on the first play of the ensuing drive.
Aschenbrenner scored for his fourth time of the night just seven plays later to effectively ice the game with the score reading 35-12 in favor of the Indians with just under eight minutes remaining. He finished the night with 117 rushing yards on only 18 carries, adding 147 more through the air on 6-11 passing.
“You can’t take away anything from the effort these young men gave,” Milleson said. “Manhattan has a school of 2,000 kids and they have an incredible tradition. They’re physical and they’re everything you really want in a ball club. They’re where we're still striding to be. They’re a top-10 team in 6A every single year. So, playing teams like Manhattan makes us a better team overall … Will there be things we need to work on? Absolutely, but these kids played their tails off tonight for 48 minutes.”
The Spartans (3-2) will look to rebound against Highland Park next week.