Holton Football @ Nemaha Central 2020
Following an exciting win at Class 2A defending state champ Nemaha Central last Friday, the Holton Wildcats travel to Chapman this Friday to face a team that beat 3A pre-season state ranked Sabetha in its first game.
“Chapman runs a Navy style offense. They really get off of the ball and have a very good athlete at quarterback,’’ Holton head coach Brooks Barta said about this week’s game. “We will have to contain the big play and do a better job finishing drives.’
The Wildcats, a Class 3A state playoff team last year, didn’t do too bad at Seneca last Friday, winning 15-13 on a last-second field goal.
The Wildcats received the opening kickoff and returned it to their own 36-yard line. From there, they proceeded to march down the field, ultimately scoring on a five-yard run by sophomore Jayden Fletcher with 6:46 left in the first quarter.
The drive spanned 10 plays, 65 yards and included four first downs. The Wildcats gave the Thunder a steady dose of senior fullback Konnor Tannahill and senior running back Canon Karn in the first drive. The point after kick by sophomore Matt Lierz was blocked, leaving the score at 6-0.
The Thunder received the ensuing kick and returned it to their own 26-yard line. With 1:51 left in the first quarter, the Thunder scored on a 19-yard pass from junior quarterback Zac Kramer to senior running back Gage Palick to cap a nine play, 74-yard scoring drive of their own. On the PAT, Holton returned the earlier favor by blocking the kick, leaving the score at 6-6.
Unlike the Wildcats, the Thunder relied heavily on the passing and scrambling of QB Kramer. Kramer gained eight yards for the Thunder’s initial first down of the drive and Kramer ran 12 yards for the Thunder’s second first down. Kramer completed a 26-yard pass to senior slotback Tyler Gerety for the team’s third first down, which moved the football to Holton’s 17-yard line. Holton junior Connor Collins dropped Palick for a two-yard loss on the next play but after that Kramer completed the TD pass to Palick.
On the ensuing kickoff, Lierz returned the ball 27 yards to give Holton good field position at its own 34-yard line. A holding penalty backed up the Wildcats but Karn gained 25 yards on first down. The first quarter ended 6-6.
Holton recovered its own fumble on this drive and after an incomplete pass by senior quarterback Kale Purcell, the Wildcats were forced to punt.
After receiving the punt, the Thunder went three and out and were forced to punt the ball back to Holton.
The Wildcats took the ball over at their own 48-yard line. An offsides call against the Thunder gave the Wildcats a first down and five yards to go situation and with 7:48 left in the second quarter, Karn broke loose for a 27-yard gain. The big play was overshadowed by an injury to Holton junior lineman Andrew Williams, who was forced to leave the game. With the ball on Nemaha Central’s 29-yard line, the Wildcats turned over the ball on a fumbled handoff.
Tannahill sacked Kramer for a seven-yard loss and then junior Slater Skaggs knocked the ball loose from a Thunder receiver on the next play, causing an incomplete pass.
On the next play, a third down and 17 yards to go situation, Kramer completed a 22-yard pass to Gerety to keep the drive going with a first down.
Four plays later, on a fourth and one situation, Karn dropped Gerety for a four-yard loss and Holton took over on downs with 4:01 left in the half at the 50-yard line.
From there, Holton marched 50 yards to pay dirt on seven plays, using up 2:35 minutes on the clock, to score on a five-yard run by Karn. In this drive, Karn also had runs of 12, seven, 20 and six. The PAT by Lierz was blocked again, this time leaving the score at 12-6 with 1:30 left to play in the half.
The Thunder picked up a first down on a 15-yard pass from Kramer to senior Landon Baker on their next drive. Kramer also ran for 14 yards on this drive. Holton’s Lierz broke up a Kramer pass completion on this drive and also intercepted a Kramer pass to stop the Thunder’s drive. At halftime, Holton led 12-6.
Receiving the second half kick, the Thunder picked up two first downs, one on a 12-yard run by junior Sam McWilliams and another on a 16-yard pass completion from Kramer to Gerety. Three plays later, however, the Thunder was forced to punt.
Holton also was forced to punt on fourth down on its first drive of the second half. Nemaha Central was forced to punt again on its second offensive possession. The Wildcats had the ball when the third quarter ended with Holton still leading 12-6.
The Wildcats picked up three first downs on this drive but failed to get a first down on a fourth down and five yards to go play, giving the Thunder the ball with 7:43 left in the game.
Two plays later, Kramer connected with Gerety for a 67-yard TD pass. Kramer kicked the PAT and the Thunder had its first lead of the game, 13-12, with 6:34 left in the game.
Holton held the football for the rest of game and ultimately Lierz kicked the game-winning field goal with .1 second left in the game to give the Wildcats a thrilling 15-13 victory.
This game-winning scoring drive spanned 16 plays and 72 yards and included five first downs and used up the last 6:20.
Holton senior Addison Hundley got the drive started with as 17-yard gain on a pitch play. On third and 10, QB Purcell connected with junior Reese Holaday for the second first down of the drive, moving the football into Thunder territory.
Three running plays later, Holton faced a fourth down and five yards to go situation. An offsides call on Holton, made it fourth down and 10. Again, Purcell connected with Holaday, this time for a 15-yard gain. The pass was initially deflected but Holaday still came up with the catch to give Holton its third first down of the drive.
Tannahill carried the ball for 13 yards next for the fourth first down, placing the ball on the NC 12 with 55.7 seconds left in the game. Tannahill carried the ball again for seven more yards. He carried again for three more yards and another first down to the two-yard line for the fifth first down. On second down and goal from the one, Tannahill carried again and looked like he crossed the goal line. An offsides penalty against Holton backed the team up to six-yard line. Tannahill gained three on the next play, setting up the third down and three yards to go field goal try with nine seconds left.
The 20-yard field goal attempt by Lierz was blocked but a Holton player recovered it and was tackled with .1 second left on the clock. Thunder players, thinking the game was over, took off their helmets and tossed them in the air in celebration. The Thunder was instead penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct, moving the ball back to the two-yard-day line.
Given another opportunity on fourth down, Lierz booted the 20-yard field goal and Holton won 15-13 over claims by the Thunder coaches that the clock should not have stopped after the blocked field goal with nine seconds left, since Holton was out of timeouts.
Holton finished unofficially with 309 yards of offense, 294 rushing and 10 passing. Nemaha Central finished with 232 yards of offense unofficially, 191 passing and 141 rushing.
Tannahill rushed 19 times for 103 yards and Karn rushed 15 times for 124 yards. For NC, Kramer completed 10 of 14 passes for 191 with Gerety catching four of them for 122.
“I thought we handled adversity very well,’’ Barta said afterwards. “We had a nice drive to start the game and then gave up a touchdown on a coverage bust and then responded well after their score. We also went down and scored after giving up a big play touchdown in the fourth quarter. On film, it is clear that Konnor had scored, however I think the officials view had been blocked by the pile. That is why we also say score by a couple yards and make it easy for the officials.’’
“Except for the two scoring plays,’’ Barta said, “I thought we played pretty good defense. We had put a lot of time into our spread defense in camp and I think it is paying off. Offensively, we did some good things, however we had five or six plays that could have helped us put the game out of reach in the second half. We are going to have to learn how to make more of those plays to finish drives.’’