Monday, October 15, 2012

Big game, little notice except ...
at Manual H.S., where it mattered most

The media coverage of high school football was dominated last weekend by the performances of premier area teams Carmel, Ben Davis, Cathedral, Center Grove and Warren Central.

I couldn't find a mention anywhere -- not even a line score -- of the game I attended Friday night, the only varsity-level home game of the season for Emmerich Manual High School and the first there since 2009. Friday's contest also served as Manual's homecoming football game. As it turned out, the game also was the school's last varsity-level game of the season.

Let me jump to the key stat of the game: Manual defeated Arlington, 24-18, meaning Manual finishes its abbreviated varsity schedule season with a win-loss record of 1-2; it had lost its two previous varsity-level games, both in September, at Lutheran and Thomas Carr Howe high schools.

With Manual clinging to a 24-18 lead late in the fourth quarter, Arlington faced a second and goal situation on its drive to at least tie the score. That's when 6-foot, 3-inch Redskins defensive back Diontae Twitty used his height advantage to swat away a pass from the outstretched arms of a shorter Golden Knights receiver in the end zone to preserve the win for Manual. The "decisive" moment picture (with a nod to Henri Cartier-Bresson) is what you see leading off this post. A "decisive moment" sidebar: Ordinarily I would have wanted to have sharpest focus on the receiver and defender. But I had quickly changed composition on the play from the quarterback (and I got nice frames of the pass in flight) to these two, and my continuous focus attempt didn't lock in correctly. Ahhh ... but I did get the watchful, hopeful eyes of Twitty's Manual teammates in perfect focus, and I found that I liked this "mistake!"

Two plays later, with under a half-minute to play, Redskins defender Demetric Mounds broke up a fourth-and-goal pass play to seal the home team's win.

Manual (and fellow IPS school Thomas Carr Howe High School) lost their football programs after the 2009 season when Indianapolis Schools Superintendent Eugene White cited a lack of participant interest. Manual barely had enough players to get through the 2009 season, when the Redskins went 0-9; almost every player had to play both offense and defense. Their last win was a 20-0 conquest of fellow IPS school Howe on Oct. 10, 2008, one of two victories that season.

On Feb. 26, 2011, I took some pictures of the snow-spattered Manual gridiron while out on a landscape shoot in nearby Garfield Park. I included one of the shots, a high-dynamic range (HDR) rendering titled "Field Foresaken" (left), among my submissions that spring for the annual "Through the Lens" photography exhibit of the Indiana Photographic Society, which shows its pictures each spring at the Garfield Park Arts Center.

Why is this such a big deal to me?

For one, Manual is located in my neighborhood; in fact, it's within walking distance from my home. My children did not attend Manual, but that doesn't mean I don't care about it. Quite the opposite. With great interest, I followed Indianapolis Star columnist Matt Tully's compelling stories about his visits to the troubled school during the 2009-10 school year. Some of the success stories in that series were powerful and heart-warming; the chronicles of frustrations and failure, on the other hand, were heart-wrenching.

People love underdogs, and I'm one of those, especially where sports are concerned. I've wanted to do something supportive -- simply as a member of the Manual neighborhood community -- ever since Tully's series got me hooked, but I wasn't sure what I could do. It had occurred to me to put my photographic skills to use to do that, but I wasn't sure how. Then in a flash, while at home Friday evening, I had a vague recollection from reading an article several weeks earlier that this evening was supposed to be Manual's one and only home football game. I went online to confirm my hunch, then quickly grabbed my camera and two lenses and strolled over to Manual. I arrived midway through the second quarter, right as Manual had scored its second touchdown to take a 12-0 lead. I paid the $4 admission price and walked through an open gate and just started shooting.

The only media I noticed was a cameraman from WISH-TV (Channel 8), who in fact asked me if I planned to be there for the whole game. When I said I did, he gave me a WISH-TV business card containing a sports department phone number and asked if I would call in a final score. I said I would ... and, I kept my word.

I'm very glad I made that spur-of-the-moment decision. I got some nice homecoming court and king-and-queen shots, some pep band shots, some celebratory hugs at the end of the game, and yes, even some nice game shots. A toast to the school and/or Coach Otis Mounds, who allowed several of his players to perform along with the school's marching band for the halftime show, another inspiring thing to see.

My plan is to burn my photos to disc and offer them to coach Mounds to use as he pleases -- or not at all -- with no strings attached. Perhaps, if Manual ever jump-started its school yearbook again, they could use a few in there. I wouldn't mind coming back to shoot some more events or activities from time to time, if the school would have me -- also on the same, no-strings-attached terms.

A footnote: I mentioned how people love underdog stories. Arlington High School itself can be a good story to watch. The Golden Knights fielded a full schedule this fall, but have yet to win a game. The loss to Manual dropped their record to 0-9.

You can view a gallery of my shots from Manual vs. Arlington at my SmugMug site.

Above and below: The Manual Marching Band, which includes four members of the football team, and is directed (below) by Spencer Lloyd, whose perseverance to return and strengthen music in Manual's curriculum was one of the heart-warming stories in Matt Tully's columns for The Indianapolis Star in 2009-10.

Above and below: At halftime, the homecoming court (no order) of Markell McGraw, Chris Nichols, Anthony Love, Jessica Banks, Lacey Turner and Brooklyn Floyd was presented, and moments later, the king and queen (below), McGraw and Banks, were announced. 

Above: Quarterback Andrew Yanez (2) is brought down after a run in the third quarter.

Above: A pass on a two-point conversion attempt in the third quarter just misses the outstretched hand of Diontae Twitty, who is defended by the same Golden Knights player from whom Twitty would knock away a pass on a key second-and-goal Arlington offensive play with under a minute to play in the game.

Above: Later in the quarter, Arlington would score on this keeper by the quarterback, who here spots a momentary window of daylight. The Redskins would soon close the hole, but the quarterback simply moved to his left and leaned over the goal line as he was tackled, closing the Manual lead to 18-12.

Above: On the ensuing kickoff, the ball got past Redskins returner Demetric Mounds, who here is pictured running back to retrieve the loose ball near the opponent's goal line. As fortune would have it, the irregularity was enough to befuddle the Arlington special team, which allowed Mounds to run along the left sideline all the way back for Manual's final touchdown.

Above: Redskins coach Otis Mounds yells out instructions during an Arlington drive late in the third quarter. 

Above and next two below: A series of photos from the same play. After an Arlington runner slips past one Manual defender, Diontae Twitty grabs hold of him and, with an awkward tackle, brings down the ball carrier.

Above: The crowd, early in the third quarter, after some thinning. 

 Above: A supporter of Manual sophomore Jason Breeding.

Above: After halftime, the Redskins broke through a paper banner to return to the field.

Above: Jalen Alexander (9) and an unidentified teammate bring down this Arlington ball carrier.

Above and below: Support for the Redskins came from all ages, including this young man along the Manual sideline (above) and the Manual cheerleaders (below).

Above: At the end of the game, emotions were best expressed with hugs. Mounds and his coaching staff share a few while team members celebrate in their own way.

Above and below: After the game, coach Mounds gathered the team and coaching staff at the north end zone along with the school flag. I didn't hear the conversation, but moments later, homecoming king Markell McGraw planted the flag into the turf (below), and then players processed in front of the grandstand to greet the people who were still around.


  1. Great shots, and it was a very thoughtful and kind thing for you to do.

  2. A great tribute, Joe! I really like the shot with some of the players in the band!!!

  3. Hi Joe,

    It was really nice talking to you after the game and you are right you did get some great shots and I love what you wrote about the school. I hope the School lets you take all the pictures you can you are really good at what you do. Oh after looking at these I still want your camera even more now. Maybe you can teach me a few things.

  4. Thank you all for the nice feedback.

    I should mention something I didn't include in the narrative and should have: For the 2012-13 school year, the State of Indiana took over control of Manual and Howe high schools and Emma Donnan Middle School, citing a sustained record of poor student performance, achievement and attendance. The state assigned management of the schools to Charter Schools USA ( ). The new management decided to return football to Manual and Howe interscholastic athletics programs, which is why the schools fielded football teams this year.