The Holcomb Longhorns used a dominant first half to build a 28-0 halftime lead and then rolled to a 49-14 win over the Clearwater Fighting Indians.
Holcomb scored on its first possession, when Brandon Stegman scampered 59 yards for a touchdown and, following a 2-point conversion, the Longhorns led 8-0. On their next possession, Holcomb controlled the clock for more than 5 minutes and drove 66 yards, with Blake Richmeier capping off the drive with a 1-yard plunge over the line and, with the extra point, Holcomb led 15-0 early in the second quarter.
The Longhorns’ next drive started at their 18 and they drove 82 yards in 11 plays, capped by a nifty 15-yard run by Richmeier that left Clearwater’s outstanding middle linebacker, Landon Smith, grasping at air when Richmeier spun around him on the way to the end zone. A missed extra point left the score at 21-0, Holcomb. Dalton Gottschalk set up the final Longhorn TD of the half, with a 55-yard interception return to the Indian 10. Connor Van Cleave scored on the second play, catching a 7-yard pass from Trey Teeter and diving into the end zone.
The Longhorns scored on each of their four first half possessions, while forcing the Indians to punt twice and turn it over on downs once, in addition to Gottschalk’s interception.
The Clearwater Fighting Indians lived up to their nickname in the second half, forcing Holcomb to punt on the half’s opening possession and then driving 94 yards in 12 plays to get on the board, with Hunter Hall hitting Erech Wiens from 9 yards out, trimming the lead to 28-7.
When Holcomb punted on its next possession, Clearwater seemed to have gained the momentum, but Connor Van Cleave ripped that momentum out of the air, picking off a Hunter Hall pass and returning it to the Indian 5. Van Cleave scored on the next play, reaching over a defender to grab a 5-yard pass from Teeter and the Longhorns pushed the lead back to 4 touchdowns, 35-7.
In the fourth quarter, Clearwater struck again, this time scoring on a 1-yard TD pass from Hall to Dane Rausch to make it 35-14, but the Longhorns scored 14 unanswered points, thanks to two more interceptions. Colby Casaus picked off a pass and returned it to the Clearwater 43 and, after moving backward due to a penalty, Teeter hit Christian Merz on a 46-yard scoring strike. Then, on the next Indian possession, Gottschalk snagged his second INT of the night and outraced the Indians 60 yards to the end zone.
Holcomb picked off four passes on the night and didn’t turn the ball over at all. Brandon Stegman led all rushers with 143 yards, scoring 1 touchdown. Blake Richmeier had 2 rushing TDs; Connor Van Cleave caught 2 of Trey Teeter’s 3 TD passes, with Christian Merz catching the other; and Dalton Gottschalk wrapped up the scoring with the highlight 60-yard interception return.
The 10-1 Longhorns advance to the sub-state semifinal round and will face top-ranked and undefeated Andale. It will be another road trip for Holcomb.