MANHATTAN, Kan. (WIBW) - The past two seasons have ended the exact same way for Manhattan High School: losing to Derby in the playoffs.
Last year, that loss denied the Indians their first state title berth since 2001. If they want to get back to that stage, their defense might be leading the way.
Joe Schartz's squad returns six starters from a defense that held half of its opponents to a touchdown or less last season. The Indian offense only returns three starters, but the team's belief in its defense is strong.
"It's huge," senior linebacker Tyce Hoover said. "That confidence point of knowing we're going to stop people and we're going to hold people down. The offense scores twice and we're going to win the ball game."
"It's really nice that we're going to have those guys holding it down," senior offensive lineman and K-State commit Sam Shields said. "If things don't go our way, then they're going to come out and they're going to do their job."
For that less experienced offense, it does return quarterback Dayne Aschenbrenner as a junior. But the biggest piece to replace is All-State running back Kevontae McDonald.
"They have big shoes to fill," Hoover said of the running backs. "But I think we have a lot of talent here within our program to step up."
"They're going to have to be tough and physical," Schartz said. "They're going to have to be able to protect the football. If they're fumbling and putting the ball on the ground, they can't play. We have some good talent and expect some good things from those guys."