MANHATTAN — On Saturday, the Manhattan Tigers capped off an already amazing season with a 23-6 win over Fairfield in the Class B football state championship game, giving Manhattan a perfect undefeated record and the first title in school history.
“Just super proud and excited to watch these kids celebrate, they’ve worked so hard for this for so long," said Manhattan head coach Chris Grabowska. "A lot of generations of Tigers have worked hard for this to get to this point. We’re finally here, we get to celebrate it, our community gets to celebrate it, it’s a great feeling.”
How did the Tigers get there? Having five Class B all-state players helped. Those players were running back and linebacker Toby Veltkamp, wide receiver and defensive end Gabriel Delgatty, quarterback and defensive back Caden Holgate, lineman Cayl DeBoer, and wide receiver Corban Johnson.
Holgate had a stellar season through the air for the Tigers. The senior finished with a whopping 30 touchdown passes and only five interceptions, while completing 72 percent of his passes.
“Feels amazing," Holgate said after the winning the championship. "I’m overwhelmed with emotion, I'm so happy I got to do it with these groups of guys, I love them.”
His all-state receiver, Johnson, finished the season averaging 25.5 yards per catch for 944 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns. One of those touchdowns came in the title game.
Manhattan's all-state running back, Veltkamp, averaged 10.2 yards per carry for 676 yards and nine rushing touchdowns. The senior running back also had two receiving touchdowns.
While the offense was flashy, the defense was simply a force to be reckoned with. In 12 games, the Tigers gave up only 87 points. That’s good for an average of 7.25 points allowed per game.
“Just hard-nosed football," Holgate said. "Coming up and making hits, we didn’t want to give up any big plays and I thought we did a pretty good job of holding them and not letting them get any big plays."
How fitting that the defense would be the one to finish the championship off. Despite a few turnovers by Holgate on offense, he intercepted the Fairfield pass with little time remaining to dash any hope of an Eagles comeback.
“When we got the ball back there and just kind of ran the clock out, it’s the best feeling in the world when you can take the victory knee," Grabowska said. "I’m just really proud of these kids, they played a great game. They battled, things didn’t go their way all day long, they didn’t get down, they just kept chipping away and finally got it done, great job for the Manhattan Tigers.”