(Courtesy of Kirk Hutchinson)
It didn’t start well for Holcomb, but it ended well, as the Longhorns pulled away for a 40-18 road win over the Nickerson Panthers.
Holcomb Longhorns head football coach Kent Teeter was pleased with his team’s fast start in week 3 and probably wanted to see more of the same when his team lined up against Nickerson in week 4. He didn’t get it. The Longhorns wasted a kick return to midfield, losing three yards on the first play, getting those three yards back on the second play and then throwing an incomplete pass. To add insult to injury, the Panthers blocked the punt and took over at the Holcomb 40.
Nickerson then used a power running game to bulldoze their way down the field, finishing off a 5-play drive with quarterback Blake Teichmann plunging into the end zone from 1 yard out for the early 6-0 lead.
The Longhorns responded to the early punch in the gut, driving 58 yards in 6 plays on their next possession, Kaden Johnson scoring from 4 yards out to tie the game. Edgar Ramirez hit the extra point and Holcomb led 7-6 midway through the 1st quarter.
The Longhorns forced a punt on the next Panther possession and Damon Mesa’s 30-yard return set Holcomb up on the Nickerson 47. Nine plays later, Kaden Johnson punched it in from 1 yard out. The Ramirez PAT gave Holcomb a 14-6 lead early in the 2nd quarter.
A quick three-and-out forced another Panther punt, which Mesa returned to the Nickerson 45. Disaster struck for the Longhorns on the next play, as the Panthers read Johnson’s fake handoff, grabbed him 10 yards deep in the backfield and stripped the ball away. The ball merrily bounced toward the Holcomb goal line and Alex Yott scooped it up and dashed the final 35 yards for the TD. Nickerson’s 2-point conversion failed again, so Holcomb still led 14-12.
The Longhorns again responded to the Panther strike with one of their own as Kaden Johnson hit Levi Knoll down the sideline for a 58-yard touchdown pass. Knoll became the first Longhorn receiver to catch a 2nd TD pass this season. Ramirez added the extra point, his 8th straight on the season, and Holcomb stretched the lead to 9, 21-12.
Nickerson used a couple of big plays to drive deep into Holcomb territory, but the Longhorn ‘D’ stiffened and stopped the Panthers on a 4th down play from the 22.
The Longhorns took over on their 26 with two minutes to play and raced down the field with a crisp passing game. Johnson hit Cooper Henson from 13 yards out for the TD with 22 seconds to play in the half. Ramirez missed his first PAT of the season, but Holcomb took a 27-12 lead to the locker room.
The 2nd half looked like it might be a different story, as Nickerson took the 2nd half kickoff and marched 68 yards in 9 plays, including a 25-yard run by the QB, Teichmann. Michael Nevins raced in from 18 yards out to pull the Panthers within 9. Again, Holcomb stopped the 2-point conversion and the Longhorns led 27-18.
A 35-yard kick return and a personal foul penalty against Nickerson for a horse-collar tackle, set Holcomb up at the Nickerson 20. But the snap from center sailed over Kaden Johnson’s head and Kolby Johnson fell on it at the 34. On 4th-and-24, Holcomb got that 14 yards back, but turned the ball over on downs.
Nickerson would go three-and-out and Damon Mesa returned the punt 50 yards for a touchdown, but it was called back for a blocking penalty. On the next play Kolby Johnson couldn’t catch the pitch from Kaden Johnson and Nickerson’s Brayden Miller fell on the ball at the Holcomb 48. But the defense held again, forcing Nickerson to turn it over on downs at the 26.
The teams traded punts and then a fumbled exchange between the Johnsons gave the Panthers yet another turnover, setting Nickerson up on their own 38. With the game now halfway through the 4th quarter, Nickerson would go for it on 4th down from the 43 and come up two yards short.
It took just two plays for Holcomb to punch it in, with Kaden Johnson racing into the end zone from the 18. Ramirez hit the PAT and Holcomb led 34-18 with 5:27 to play.
The Panthers would again turn it over on downs, with the Longhorns taking over at the Nickerson 32. This time it was the Khai Cosner show, as he carried it three straight times, finishing off the drive with a 6-yard TD run. Ramirez missed his 2nd extra point of the night and Holcomb led 40-18.
Nickerson would punt on their final possession and Kaden Johnson took a knee to end the game.
The Panthers had 249 total yards in the game, all on the ground. The Longhorns rushed for 187 yards and threw from 143, racking up 330 total yards and 6 touchdowns. The performance was only marred by the three fumbles and the blocked punt, but Holcomb overcame those miscues to improve to 4-0. Nickerson fell to 0-4 and will continue district play at Hugoton.
The Longhorns are now 1-0 in district and will host Larned Friday night. The Indians fell to Pratt, 35-20.