June 13, 2024

Holcomb edges Nickerson in overtime

(Courtesy of Kirk Hutchinson)

HOLCOMB, Kan. — The game looked over, and then it wasn’t, and then it was. The Holcomb Longhorns overcame an 8-point deficit in the 4th quarter to force overtime and then won the game on an Edgar Ramirez extra point, outlasting the Nickerson Panthers 22-21.

Neither team scored in the opening quarter, although Nickerson had a golden opportunity after Holcomb’s Levi Knoll muffed a punt and the Panthers were in business at the Longhorn 29. But Holcomb’s ‘D’ gave up just five yards in four plays and the Longhorns took over on downs at their own 24. The teams then exchanged punts, with Holcomb getting the ball on its 29 and then launching a 71-yard drive, mostly on the ground. The big play was a 36 yard scamper by quarterback Kobe Hands, giving Holcomb a first-and-goal at the Nickerson two. Drew Hill finished off the seven-play drive with a two-yard run and Edgar Ramirez hit the extra point to give the Longhorns a 7-0 lead. The teams would swap turnoverS before the half ended and Holcomb went to the locker room with the one touchdown lead.

Nickerson started the 2nd half at midfield after a kick return to the 35 yard line and a personal foul penalty against Holcomb. The Panthers used 11 plays to travel those 50 yards, capped by quarterback Tre Garcia’s 11-yard TD run. The extra point was blocked, however, and Holcomb still led, 7-6.

A Drew Hill fumble on the next possession set Nickerson up at the Holcomb 40, but once again the Longhorn defense forced the Panthers to turn the ball over on downs. A short Holcomb punt gave Nickerson the ball back at its own 40 and as the final quarter began, the Panthers drove into Longhorn territory.

A frantic series of turnovers and mistakes would put Nickerson on top. First, the Panthers drove inside the Longhorn 20, only to fumble it away with Kolby Johnson recovering. Then a bad snap on 4th down led to a botched punt and Nickerson had the ball back on Holcomb’s 19. Then another fumble was recovered by Levi Knoll and Holcomb had the ball back on it’s own 13. But another bad snap left the Longhorns hanging by a thread inside their own one yard line. Hands was tackled in the end zone for a safety on the next play and Nickerson had its first lead of the night, 8-7. The Holcomb kick was returned to the Longhorn 31 and the Panthers didn’t waste this opportunity, scoring in five plays as Garcia pushed in from the one. The extra point made it a 15-7 game and with just over 3:30 to play, it looked like homecoming would end in disappointment for Holcomb.

But head coach Kent Teeter went with a two-minute offensive package, substituting sophomore Kaden Johnson at QB and the Longhorns threw their way down the field. Knoll set up the drive with a 25-yard kick return to the 36. The Longhorns would run the ball just once on their final drive and would have to convert a 4th-and-7 play from midfield. But on the 11th play of the drive, Johnson hit Trey Cox for a 14 yard TD with 1:37 to play. Then, Johnson and Cox connected again for the crucial 2-point conversion to tie the game at 15.

On the very first play of the next series, Garcia hit wide receiver Noah Salazar for what would have been a 65-yard pass play to the Holcomb two, but a blocking penalty negated the big play and the clock would run out, sending the game to overtime.

Nickerson took the ball first and scored on a 5-yard touchdown run by Jarin Gomez, but misfired on a two-point conversion and the Panthers led 21-15. On Holcomb’s first play of overtime, Johnson connected with Levi Knoll for a 10-yard touchdown pass to tie the game. Ramirez had to kick the extra point twice, due to an inadvertent whistle by an official on the first attempt. But he split the uprights again on the second try, giving the Longhorns a 22-21 victory.

The Longhorns struggled on offense, with just 86 yards rushing for 1 TD and 116 yards passing for 2 TDs. Kobe Hands was three-out-of-nine through the air for 46 yards with one pick. He was also Holcomb’s leading rushing with 38 yards on the ground. Kaden Johnson was 7-for-11 passing on the dramatic game-tying drive and in overtime, with two touchdown passes and 70 yards through the air. The Longhorns also had three turnovers, two fumbles and the interception.

Nickerson fumbled the ball away three times, undermining a rushing attack that gained 222 yards and accounted for all three Panther TDs. Nickerson drops to 1-3 on the year, 0-1 in district play.

Holcomb improves to 2-2 and starts district play at 1-0, avenging last year’s loss to the Panthers. The Longhorns travel to Larned on Friday to take on the Indians, also 2-2 and 1-0. Larned trounced Pratt 46-15 for their first home win against the Greenbacks since 1994. The Longhorns and Indians kick at 7:00 with pregame at 6:30 on KBUF 1030 AM.