MANHATTAN — Knowing that the opposition has been stacking the box in an attempt to shut down the ground attack, Chris Grabowska opened up the playbook Saturday afternoon.
The sixth-year coach opted for first down passes to begin Manhattan’s first two drives of the game and the result were plays of 32 and 27 yards.
Those big passes set up touchdowns as the Tigers scored on five of their seven first half possessions en route to routing Cut Bank 41-0 in first round game of the Class B playoffs.
“We just know that we’ve got to be a multidimensional team on offense. Teams lately have been stacking the box on us and we want to take advantage of that and we know we can throw the ball too,” said Grabowska. “We came out and that’s kind of what we wanted to do right off the bat was throw the ball a little bit and get them to back off.”
Manhattan (9-0) advanced to the quarterfinals for a fifth consecutive year and will host Missoula Loyola next Saturday. Loyola, the No. 3 seed from the West, shut out Huntley Project 20-0 in its first round game.
The Tigers beat Loyola (6-4) on the road in September, 26-14, but have not advanced past the quarterfinals of the playoffs since 2010. It’s something Grabowska wasn’t concerned about.
“I think our kids our confident right now. We’re not really going to look at it as a nemesis. We’re just going to go prepare like it’s another game like we did this week,” he said. “If we have a great week of preparation I like our chances.”
Led by quarterback Lane Veltkamp, Manhattan tallied 384 yards of offense. The senior completed 12 of 19 passes for 242 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Early in the season Veltkamp had shredded defenses with his legs. But a knee injury about a month ago forced him to sit out a game, limited his mobility, and shifted his focus to the passing game.
“I was really proud of how he threw the ball today,” said Grabowska. “It kind of forced him into that role I guess when he went down with that injury a little bit, and he knew that he had to step up in his pass game. And he’s done that every week since then. It’s another dimension for our offense and another thing for teams to prepare for.”
Veltkamp threw touchdown passes of 14 and 24 yards in the contest, but it was his first two completions that set the tone for the day. He connected with Gabriel Delgatty on the first play of the game, which led to a 9-yard TD run by Garrit Weeda, and then found Kyle Hotvedt on his third throw to spark the second scoring drive.
“He’s a gamer and he’s a quarterback that I would take in any game,” said Grabowska. “He always finds a way to get the job done and he trusts his teammates and everyone around him. He kind of just brings everyone with him too.”
The Tigers took a 14-0 lead after Veltkamp connected with Delgatty for the second score. Then Weeda stretched it to 21-0 midway through the second quarter on an 8-yard run.
Isaac Richardson scored on a 14-yard run late in the first half, and then Toby Veltkamp scored on a 24-yard reception with 47 seconds remaining before halftime to make it 34-0. Weeda scored his third touchdown of the contest, a 7-yard run, to cap the Tigers’ first drive of the second half.
While the offense was clicking on all cylinders, Manhattan’s defense was relentless. The unit allowed just two first downs in the contest, recovered a fumble and picked off a pass.
“Our defense, I’ve said it before, has been a strength of ours for a couple years now and today was no different,” said Grabowska. “One of their goals was to get a shutout and they came out and got the job done. All levels of our defense just executed really well.”
Manhattan 41, Cut Bank 0
Cut Bank 0 0 0 0 - 0
Manhattan 14 20 7 0 - 41
Man - Garrit Weeda 9 run (Jose Molina kick)
Man - Gabriel Delgatty 14 pass from Lane Veltkamp (Molina kick)
Man - Weeda 8 run (Molina kick)
Man - Isaac Richardson 12 run (Molina kick)
Man - Toby Veltkamp 24 pass from L. Veltkamp (kick failed)
Man - Weeda 7 run (Molina kick)