Wildcats rally to remain undefeated in district football competition
Like an actual Wildcat, the Holton football team showed its claws after being backed into a corner early in Friday night’s district football game against Perry-Lecompton.
The Kaws drove inside the Holton 10-yard line twice in their first two possessions, but the HHS defense held its opponent to just one touchdown, the only score it would give up before recovering on the way to a 28-6 victory over Perry.
“We kind of made some nice adjustments after a rough start offensively and defensively and then I thought, for three quarters, really played well,” Holton coach Brooks Barta said.
Holton received the ball to start the game and proceeded to stall after three plays. After a short punt, Perry-Lecompton was set up with good field position at the Wildcats’ 32-yard line.
Defensively, HHS buckled down and stuffed the Kaws inside the five-yard line and a pass on fourth down fell incomplete to thwart Perry-Lecompton’s first scoring attempt.
The Wildcats had trouble getting anything going on offense to get out of the shadow of their own end zone, though, and punted the ball back to Perry after three unsuccessful plays.
In its second drive starting on Holton’s half of the field, the Kaws would not come away empty. The visitors converted on fourth down twice in that drive before running back Cole Kellum capped it off with a five-yard touchdown run, giving Perry a 6-0 lead.
While Holton lost the battle for field position early in the game, the war was far from over and the Wildcats started gaining some ground late in the first quarter.
Slowly but surely the HHS rushing attack started to pick up some steam and the dam seemed to burst when Spencer Baum ran for a first down on fourth and seven.
“We kind of bobbled the ball around a couple times and once we got a couple first downs and got in a little bit of a rhythm, I thought most everything clicked pretty well,” Barta said.
That run by Baum set-up Holton inside Perry’s 10-yard line to start the second quarter and while the team needed all four plays, Mason Barta eventually took the plunge from one yard out to put HHS on the scoreboard. With the extra point, the home team took a 7-6 lead it would not give back.
After forcing a three and out, the Wildcats quickly got the ball back and marched right back down the field before stalling inside the red zone. Perry-Lecompton took over on downs, but what a difference the field position made.
While the Kaws continued to move the ball down the field, the visitors’ drive eventually stalled with Justin Rieschick breaking up a pass on third down and Wildcat Parker Zeller then recorded a sack on fourth down.
Holton took over on its own 39-yard line with just over two minutes left in the first half and what followed might have been the decisive blow in Friday’s contest.
While the Wildcats were aided by a couple of facemask penalties called on Perry-Lecompton, the team also looked smooth in its execution of the two-minute offense.
Following a 10-yard touchdown run by Mason Barta with 30 seconds left in the first half, putting HHS ahead 13-6, the Wildcats seemed to have all the momentum they would need.
Early in the second half, Baum then broke the big play for Holton as he sprinted down the opponent’s sideline for a 59-yard touchdown that put Holton ahead 21-6. That was more than enough of a lead given the way the defense was playing.
While the defensive front continued to put the pressure on and force Perry quarterback Mitchell Bond to tuck the ball and run, there wasn’t much to throw to in the first place. Barta noted the secondary’s work on their coverage and leverage paid off, as the Kaws’ passing game never took flight.
Bond did eventually try to bring the Kaws back, but Holton’s secondary came up with three interceptions in the second half. It was a strong effort all-around that could have been even stronger.
“I thought across the board our secondary was aggressive, they were in good position and we got our hands on a lot of balls,” Barta said. “In fact, it’d be nice if we caught the ball just a little better. We had some opportunities at picks that we didn’t quite catch.”
Justin Pool collected the first interception and the offense then turned that into another touchdown just before the end of the third quarter, with quarterback Justin Rieschick keeping it for a nine-yard to put Holton up 28-6.
Rieschick then forced a turnover on the Kaws’ next possession and Bryson Patch illustrated the advantages of working on the tip drill late in the game, picking off a deflected the pass to get the ball back for the Wildcats and allow the home team to run out the clock.
While the Wildcats may have gotten a little comfortable towards the end, Holton still finished the game strong and a difficult schedule seems to now be being dividends in this tough district.
“It’s certainly made us a better football team,” Barta said. “We’ve had a lot of tough football games this year and great things are starting to show up, so we’re hoping it all pays off.”
Holton (5-3) moved to 2-0 in district play with a win over the Kaws and now controls its own destiny in the regular season finale against Royal Valley. That game will be played in Holton at 7 p.m. this Friday.
Oct. 23, 2015
HHS: 66 plays, 323 total yards, one turnover and five penalties for 45 yards.
PL: 65 plays, 290 total yards, three turnovers and five penalties for 59 yards.
Rushing: HHS- Baum (15-128-1 TD), Barta (18-72-2 TDs), Pool (8-43), Zeller (7-24), Rieschick (7-21-1 TD), Brandt (1-15), Wright (7-12).
Passing: HHS- Rieschick (1-3-8-1 INT).
Receiving: HHS- Wright (1-8).
Defense: HHS- Patch (8 tackles, three pass deflections, INT), Rieschick (7 tackles, 2 TFL, two pass deflections, INT), Brandt (11 tackles), Barta (9 tackles, pass deflection), Zeller ( 9 tackles, sack), Wright (6 tackles, pass deflection), Price (4 tackles, 2 TFL, blocked kick), Aeschliman (8 tackles, 1 TFL), Pool (1 tackle, INT).