Wildcats stifle Trojans on the way to regional football title
Given how much playoff success the Holton football program has enjoyed during head coach Brooks Barta’s tenure, it seems only fitting that the coach would pick up his milestone 200th career win in the postseason.
The Wildcats celebrated that on Friday night, as well as what they hope to be the start of another deep playoff run, as HHS claimed a regional title with 35-12 victory over Osawatomie at home.
“That was the most important thing was getting that first playoff win. It was nice to kind of get the 200 over with. We had a goal of getting that done in 20 years this year,” Barta said.
Barta has now averaged 10 wins a season at Holton in those 20 years and the formula for success hasn’t changed much. Friday’s win fit right in that mold, too, as the Wildcats grinded out yards on offense, wore down the Trojans and played stifling defense in order to advance in the playoffs.
With what Osawatomie showed they were capable of earlier in the season, Barta noted it was especially important for Holton to set the tone at the start of the game, something the team had no trouble doing.
“We thought we needed to get a lead and we didn’t want them to get on track offensively,” Barta said. “We wanted them to have to play from behind and they took a lot of chances on fourth down and that paid off for us.”
Justin Pool returned the opening kickoff 28 yards to midfield and the HHS offense then went to work. After picking up a couple of first downs, fullback Mason Barta broke free for a 21-yard touchdown to give Holton a 7-0 lead and put Osawatomie in a hole early.
After the defense shut down the Trojans on their first possession, the Wildcats made short work of Osawatomie on their next offensive series.
This time around, HHS mixed in the pass and caught the Trojans off guard, as quarterback Justin Rieschick found a wide open tight end Austin Frakes for a 45-yard touchdown that made it 14-0 in favor of Holton.
“That’s something we’re capable of doing, we’ve felt like we’re capable of doing, and we felt like some of their secondary guys were getting a little too involved in the run game, so we thought we had a chance there,” Barta said of the passing attack, which delivered a few big plays on Friday night.
On the Trojans’ next drive, star running back Riley England got loose, but some sloppy ball handling allowed Mason Barta to force a fumble while taking England down. Parker Zeller recovered the ball for HHS and got the Wildcats back in business.
While Holton was driving into the second quarter, the Wildcats gave the ball back on an interception, but Osawatomie proved even more turnover prone and Barta collected an interception of his own to cut the Trojans’ drive short.
The Wildcats capitalized and covered a lot of ground through the air again, with Brandt making a big catch to get the offense into Osawatomie territory. Running back Will Wright then capped the drive with a short touchdown run that put HHS up 21-0.
Despite two interceptions by Justin Pool, Holton could not get back into the end zone before halftime, though, even with the ball inside the Trojans’ 10-yard line.
Part of that had to do with a valiant effort from the Trojans’ defense, as they came out ready to play and put some pressure on the Wildcats’ option run game.
“That’s the first time we felt like we’ve seen them play that hard,” Barta said. “We thought their interior defensive guys were stronger and played a little bit harder than we’d seen.”
“I was a little disappointed we didn’t have at least one more score on the board, but I thought we gave them a lot of problems with our defense. That’s an offense that came in averaging 450 yards a game. It was a good effort by the kids,” Barta said.
While the Wildcats may not have been able to break the big play against Osawatomie on the ground, they returned the favor as they corralled England (who has rushed for well over 2,000 yards this season) and held him under 100 rushing yards for the game.
That performance was anchored by the front seven and the defensive line, especially, which continued to improve and make some big plays that have helped the team’s overall progression the last few weeks.
In the second half, after another slow start, England finally broke his first big run of the game with a minute left in the third quarter, but it was too little and too late.
England’s run and an ensuing screen pass set up the Trojans’ first score of the game, a three-yard touchdown run by quarterback Brody Russell, but it was sandwiched between two more Wildcat touchdowns.
Holton proceeded to wear down and erode the Osawatomie defense in the third quarter with a heavy dose of Barta and Spencer Baum. Wright then picked up his second touchdown of the night with just over three minutest left in the third period.
After Osawatomie scored its first touchdown in the fourth quarter, HHS immediately answered with a five-yard touchdown run by Pool to make it a 35-6 game.
Then, it looked like AJ Haussler delivered the final blow, recording the Wildcats’ fourth interception of the game in the team’s next defensive stand, but a fumble after the interception gave the ball back to the Trojans.
Chaseton Wylie then did some damage, illustrating why Holton wanted to put the game away early, and got into the end zone from 10 yards out to cap that drive. It did little to deter Holton from a 35-12 victory, though, allowing the Wildcats to claim a regional title.
While Barta said he feels good about the win over an Osawatomie team that returned basically all of its starters from a season ago, coming back stronger and more mature, some issues did rear up in the second half. Inconsistency over four quarters continued to hamper the Wildcats and that is something the coach noted he will address as HHS prepares for the sectional round of the playoffs in a match-up on the road against Frontenac.
“For us to continue to advance, that’s going to have to stop. I think we’re getting better about it,” Barta said. “Hopefully in a tight ball game we won’t let that happen, but we’re going to start playing guys that can come from behind and beat you and you can’t afford to relax.”
Holton (7-3) will look to put it all together before hitting the road for a 7 p.m. game against Frontenac (7-3), located in southeast Kansas near Pittsburg, on Friday.
Nov. 6, 2015
HHS: 61 plays, 354 total yards, three turnovers and one penalty for five yards.
OHS: 57 plays, 270 total yards, five turnovers and three penalties for 35 yards.
Rushing: HHS- Barta (16-97-1 TD), Wright (17-72-2 TDs), Pool (11-47-1 TD), Zeller (3-38), Baum (4-29), Patch (1-1), Rieschick (4-(-2)); OHS- England (17-96), Badders (14-59), Wylie (4-32-1 TD), Russell (3-13-1 TD).
Passing: HHS- Rieschick (2-5-72-1 INT-1 TD); OHS- Russell (4-8-87-4 INTs).
Receiving: HHS- Frakes (1-45-1 TD), Brandt (1-27); OHS- England (1-20), Wylie (3-67).
Defense: HHS- Barta (8 tackles, forced fumble, INT), Pool (3 tackles, two pass deflection, two INTs), Aeschliman (10 tackles), Frakes (9 tackles), Haussler (6 tackles, INT), Price (6 tackles), Zeller (5 tackles, fumble recovery).