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Oct. 13—Manhattan High coaches turned to an outside voice to help their team through the emotions and frustrations of losing their first game of the season after a 21-14 homecoming loss to Washburn Rural last Friday.
Nearly 24 hours after that loss, another unbeaten team lost for the first time this season: the Alabama Crimson Tide.
When Alabama head coach Nick Saban spoke to the media, he spoke of the importance of preparation and having a sense of purpose. It was a message head coach Joe Schartz and his staff felt the team needed to hear.
"(Saban) says it really well," Schartz said. "When you lose, you just have to analyze yourself and see what you did to contribute to the losing. And then you need to make the corrections and get back to work and that's what we're attempting to do this week."
The team, to its credit, seem to be handling things well as they begin to shift their focus to this coming Friday when they travel to Topeka to face Topeka West.
"I think we're all taking it as a bittersweet thing," senior cornerback Zach Hirschey said. "No one wants to lose but it's hard to see your flaws when you're beating everyone. So this just allowed us to see what we need to work on this week so we can get better."
Despite only having two wins to this point, the Chargers are having one of their better seasons in years. Topeka West has regularly beaten Highland Park — something they did again last Friday — but earlier in the year, they pulled off something that hasn't been done by the Chargers in 15 years.
Topeka West narrowly beat Emporia 36-32 in the second week of the season. That win marked the first non-Highland Park Centennial League win for Topeka West since 2005, according to Kansas High School Football History.
"Topeka West is definitely improved compared to years past," Schartz said. "They're coming off a win and they should be riding high. They don't have anything to lose."
The Chargers are led by junior 6-foot-3 quarterback Malichi Berg and running back Tyrell Reed who runs hard and could make life difficult for the Indian defense if they aren't fundamentally sound.
"From what we've seen, he's tough to bring down," Hirschey said. "If we don't tackle properly with good technique, he'll run all over us."
Defensively, the Chargers have given up a lot of big plays but Schartz has noticed that they've actually been quite good covering shorter and more intermediate attacks, especially with the several big bodies that they have up front.
"They make it difficult to run the ball up the middle," Schartz said. "From what I've watched on film versus Junction City and Seaman, it was difficult for them to execute against their defense. They just had big plays and that's how they pulled away. Otherwise, T-West hung in there."
The game will be the first road game for the Indians since their victory over Topeka High in the last week of September.
"That hour on the bus gets you a little bit more focused than a home game does," Schartz said. "So I don't mind traveling. It helps get the kids away from the distractions they have at home."
The Indians are ready for a get-right game and are hopeful that they can regain the momentum and swagger that they carried earlier in the season.
"We just can't wait to play on Friday night," senior safety Colby Klieman said. "When you lose, it just makes you more hungry to go out and get the next one. We want to get that winning feeling again and I think that's something that we took for granted before."
Friday's game will kickoff at 7 p.m. at Hummer Sports Park in Topeka.