HHS football stumbles in OT in battle of perennial state contenders
When it comes to cinema, there is an unspoken truth that sequels are never better than the original. If last Friday’s football game between Silver Lake and Holton was any indication, then the same principle clearly does not apply to the realm of sports.
The season-opener in Holton between the Wildcats and Eagles was everything it was billed to be prior to the first meeting of the teams on the gridiron last season. That match-up was quickly dominated by Silver Lake, but Friday’s contest seemed to be anybody’s game from the second quarter on, though in the end the outcome remained the same as the Eagles escaped with a 23-22 victory in overtime.
Silver Lake didn’t waste any time providing the fireworks in this rematch, as Eagle Cole Baird returned the opening kickoff 85 yards for a quick six to help the visitors open up a 7-0 lead.
Baird wasn’t done making plays, either, as he would prove to be a thorn in the Wildcats’ side throughout the night. On the following Holton possession, which saw the Wildcats convert a fourth and four just outside the red zone, Baird ended the threat with an interception at the Eagles’ five-yard line.
While Holton would answer with an equally big play on the defensive end, a sack by Mason Barta, the offense struggled to get going early as it was set back by penalties on its first three drives. That had a hand in disrupting the Wildcat offense.
“We’re just not consistent enough and that’s hard to do early in the season, but it has to be done,” HHS coach Brooks Barta said. “We never like to have a lot of penalties in what we do because that takes us off schedule on our offense and penalties did really hurt us. It’s tough to overcome that when you make that many mistakes.”
Eventually, those penalties led to one three and out and a short punt that gave Silver Lake the ball at midfield. Linebacker Mason Barta helped the Wildcats recover. though. by coming up with an interception at the 35-yard line.
After a nearly 30-yard return, the field position advantage was switched and quarterback Justin Rieschick then found Barta for a 26-yard pass that set up the Wildcats’ first touchdown of the night, a two-yard run by Spencer Baum. That tied the game up at 7-7 shortly into the second quarter.
The teams remained tied going into the locker room at halftime and Silver Lake seemed to be in a better position, as Holton had some self-inflicted mistakes that left the door open for the Eagles.
Late in the first half, the Wildcats had fumbles on back-to-back plays and while the team managed to turn that into a first down at the time, it foreshadowed some issues, again with consistency, that the team would have in the second half.
Holton’s defense also almost yielded a quick scoring drive to the Eagles with just two minutes left in the half. While the defensive line and linebackers remained stout, the secondary had some issues, though Barta noted that had a little to do with the variety of Silver Lake’s offense.
“I thought our front seven really played well and I think our secondary has some growth yet and part of that was I don’t like playing that kind of team early in the season because they have several different packages,” Barta said. “When they went with the empty package, that’s something we haven’t really seen or prepared for so we were kind of scrambling during the game to put something together.”
Getting the ball back to start the second half, Holton had a chance to once again get rolling, but it was forced to punt after a three and out. Luckily, the front seven delivered once again as Barta came up with his second interception of the night on the first play of Silver Lake’s next drive.
The teams traded empty drives again after that and while running back Will Wright broke free for a big run that seemed to give the Wildcats some juice on their third offensive drive of the second half, a fumble on the very next play wiped it all away.
Silver Lake marched down the field after that and converted that turnover into three points after a 26-yard field goal by Taylor Martin.
With a little under three minutes left in the third quarter, the Wildcats followed with a methodical drive that put them in position to tie the game back up, but a missed field goal attempt allowed the Eagles to remain ahead 10-7.
Holton’s defense delivered again right after that, though, as it forced a three and out and then the Wildcats pulled out a gadget play and converted the halfback pass on the first play of their next drive, with Justin Pool finding Spencer Baum for a 41-yard touchdown. A blocked extra point meant HHS had a three-point lead, 13-10.
Facing third and long on its next drive, Holton elected to throw with a little over six minutes remaining in the game. Silver Lake’s Keenan Baird came up with the interception this time, which seemed to give the Eagles the fuel they needed.
In Holton territory, Silver Lake look poised to score again, but the Wildcats defense forced a third and 13 situation. With a playmaker like Cole Baird, that proved to be a minimal obstacle as the quarterback broke free for a 30-yard touchdown that put the Eagles back in front 16-13.
Four and a half minutes remained after that score and the Wildcats went back to the halfback pass to try and rally. This time, the offense got a pass interference call out of the play that put the ball on Silver Lake’s side of the field. That drive came up short of a touchdown, but Arturo Reveles converted a 27-yard field goal that knotted the game up, 16-16.
The Wildcats’ defense then shut the door and made sure the game was headed to overtime as Justin Wells forced a fumble on the Eagles’ last drive in regulation, while Austin Frakes recovered for Holton.
Silver Lake won the coin toss and took the ball on offense first in the extra period and wasted no time getting back in the end zone. Baird found Logan Wolfley for an eight-yard touchdown pass and the Eagles converted the extra point to go up 23-16.
Holton’s multi-headed offensive beast, which saw a lot of first time varsity competitors contributing at a high level on Friday, answered quickly as Baum got into the end zone for the third time on Friday on the Wildcats’ offensive possession.
Then, Barta called a timeout to discuss the team’s options. With the issues of consistency, the coach felt more confident kicking and getting into a second overtime period.
“I guess there’s no right answer. In the minute and a half we had to think about it, I felt like it was the right decision to take it to the next overtime. I felt a lot better about four plays than I did one play with our lack of consistency Friday night,” Barta said.
Ultimately, the extra point attempt veered left and Silver Lake held on for a 23-22 victory.
It’s a tough loss to swallow, but considering the Wildcats were in this game all the way, Barta noted he feels better moving forward than he did a year ago.
“I think we probably have a lot more confidence coming out of this game this year than we did last year,” Barta said. “We don’t lose too many games where we have 150 more yards offense and there’s a lot of little things we could’ve done to change the outcome.”
Holton’s schedule doesn’t get any easier from here, as the Wildcats (0-1) get set to make the long trek to Maize to take on the Mavericks of Maize South this Friday at 7 p.m.
Sept. 4, 2015
HHS: 74 plays, 373 total yards, three turnovers and 11 penalties for 99 yards.
SLHS: 46 plays, 211 total yards, three turnovers and 10 penalties for 75 yards.
Rushing: HHS- Baum (18-88-2 TDs), Rieschick (13-82), Wright (15-73), Pool (15-51), Barta (5-13), Zeller (1-(-1)); SL- Howerton (7-24), C. Baird (9-51-1 TD), Dultmeier (4-(-2)), Huske (1-4), Wagner (1-3), K. Baird (1-0).
Passing: HHS- Rieschick (1-6-26-2 INTs), Pool (1-1-41-1 TD); SL- C. Baird (8-20-87-1 TD-1 INT), Dultmeier (1-4-43-1 INT).
Receiving: HHS- Baum (1-41-1 TD), Barta (1-26); SL- Wolfley (2-50-1 TD), K. Baird (3-50), Wagner (2-12), Wichman (2-18).
Defense: HHS- Barta (12 tackles, two pass deflections, two INTs), Brandt (7 tackles), Frakes (4 tackles, pass deflection, fumble recovery), Aeschliman (6 tackles), Wittmer (6 tackles), Wells (4 tackles, forced fumble).