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'Play our heart out': Manhattan aims to topple Florence in Class B championship

Posted at 1:41 PM, Nov 17, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-17 16:53:34-05

MANHATTAN — The Manhattan Tigers fully recognize the challenge that awaits them this weekend.

"We know what we're up against with Florence," said Manhattan head football coach Wes Kragt. "They're a great team and we're gonna go out and do the best we can."

Manhattan (11-1) is set to host two-time defending Class B champion Florence in the title game on Saturday at 1 p.m. The one-loss Tigers will be looking to upend an undefeated Falcons squad that hasn't dropped a game in over a year.

But the Tigers — whose lone loss this season was a 7-6 non-conference overtime defeat to Missoula Loyola in Week 2 — have plenty of reasons to believe they have a legitimate shot at preventing Florence from becoming Class B's first program to win three straight championships.

"We've worked all year for this," said senior receiver Callin Fenno. "Offseason, grinding all year and we're just ready to go out and play our game."

Manhattan stormed to an unbeaten conference record and, in the regular-season finale, walloped previously undefeated Columbus 47-20 to seize the Southern B crown. The Tigers then strung together three convincing postseason victories to put them on the doorstep of claiming their second crown since 2020, when Manhattan earned its first-ever state championship with a 23-6 win over Fairfield.

That narrow loss to Loyola ultimately served as a launch pad for the Tigers who have handily beaten all their ensuing opponents. Outside of a 24-10 win over Jefferson on Oct. 13 Manhattan has rolled past everyone by at least three possessions.

"That just gave us more fuel to go into the next game," said junior quarterback Michael Stewart.

The Tigers' current roster boasts 13 seniors, most of whom were freshmen on that championship team. They're now looking to experience that same feeling.

"We got a taste of it when these guys were freshmen and I was an offensive coordinator," said Kragt. "They remember the thought of being here and just the excitement of being able to hold up that trophy."

The Falcons will undoubtedly be Manhattan's toughest opponent of season but, if the Tigers continue to play like they have, they know that anything is possible.

"We're just gonna play our heart out," said Stewart. "Play our hardest and hopefully we can come out with a win."