MANHATTAN — Heading into Friday’s game at Manhattan, Washburn Rural coach Steve Buhler knew the matchup would come down to whether his team could match the physicality of the Indians.
It didn’t end how he wanted it to in a 31-7 loss. The Junior Blues dropped their first game of the season on a difficult night offensively that saw Rural commit three turnovers.
“They just consistently pound you,” Buhler said of Manhattan. “We talked a lot about that as a concern coming into the game, their physical play and whether we could match it or not for four quarters. Obviously tonight we didn’t do a good job of matching it on the offensive or defensive side.”
After giving up an early touchdown to the Indians, Washburn Rural tied the game on a 34-yard pass from Jordan White to Preston Williams. But the Junior Blues would be blanked the rest of the way against a stout Manhattan defense that won the turnover battle 3-0.
In the fourth quarter trailing 24-7, White had to come out of the game after losing his second fumble of the night on a hard hit from a Manhattan defender, giving way to backup quarterback Michael Schurig. The two quarterbacks combined for 144 yards through the air, but couldn’t find the end zone after the early score.
Buhler said the offensive struggles put his defense in a tough spot much of the night.
“Manhattan did a great job defensively to limit our offense and put us in some bad situations,” he said. “We’re not the biggest of teams to begin with — we can’t leave people out there as long as we left them out there against a good physical team like this.”
Both teams struggled in a scoreless third quarter before Manhattan finally punched it in with 9:27 to play in the fourth on a 3-yard keeper by quarterback Talon Claussen. Claussen would go on to score again with 6:22 to play to represent the final margin, finishing with 83 yards through the air and 59 more on the ground with three total touchdowns.
Kevontae McDonald was the leading rusher for the Indians, finishing with 107 yards on 18 carries.
White finished with 91 yards passing and a touchdown for the Junior Blues.
Manhattan (1-1) took a 17-7 lead into halftime, scoring 10 unanswered points to close out the half. Trailing 14-7, the Junior Blues were driving against the Manhattan defense but lost a fumble to give the Indians back the ball. Manhattan connected on a 45-yard pass from Claussen to Jaylon Liggons on the next play to get within scoring distance, ultimately settling for a 34-yard field goal from Thomas Gevock.
Washburn Rural (1-1) 0 7 0 0 — 7
Manhattan (1-1) 7 10 0 14 — 31
Manhattan — Wewer 13 pass from Claussen (Gevock kick)
Washburn Rural — Williams 34 pass from White (Kayser kick)
Manhattan — Liggons 12 run (Gevock kick)
Manhattan — Gevock 34 field goal
Manhattan — Claussen 3 run (Gevock kick)
Manhattan — Claussen 1 run (Gevock kick)
RUSHING — Washburn Rural: Cummings 6-26, White 15-20, Carter 8-19, Schurig 2 (minus 13). Manhattan: McDonald 18-107, Claussen 13-59, Liggons 6-36, Wewer 8-19.
PASSING — Washburn Rural: White 5-11-91, Schurig 5-8-53. Manhattan: Claussen 5-9-83.
RECEIVING — Washburn Rural: Williams 4-71, Breckenridge 4-41, Kayser 2-32. Manhattan: Liggons 1-45, Wewer 2-25, Hoover 1-10, Vikander 1-3.
PUNTING — Washburn Rural: Kayser 6-38.7. Manhattan: Claussen 5-28.2.