June 20, 2024

Holcomb hangs tough, comes up just short

(Courtesy of Kirk Hutchinson)

HOLCOMB — In a back-and-forth battle between unbeatens, the Holcomb Longhorns came up short against the Cheney Cardinals, 31-28. The game had the feel of a playoff showdown, something Coach Kent Teeter echoed in his postgame interview on KBUF 1030.

“This was a big-time game,” Teeter said. “I told the team on Monday, ‘this will be a game you will never forget.’ I said, ‘They’re 5-0, we’re 5-0; they’re good, we’re good; so let’s play the game and see where we’re at.’”

What everyone saw was a battle between two well-prepared and very good football teams.

The defenses ruled the 1st half. Holcomb held Cheney to a three-and-out on the game’s first possession and then drove to the Cardinal 18. But on third down, Cheney sent more rushers than Holcomb could block, and Kaden Johnson was sacked and stripped of the football. Four plays later, the Longhorns stampeded the Cardinal quarterback forcing an interception. Oz Perez deflected the Harrison Voth pass and Nick Almarez came down with it, giving Holcomb the ball at the Cheney 46. Those would be the only turnovers of the game.

The Longhorns took advantage of the takeaway, driving the 46 yards in six plays, finished off by a Khai Cosner 5-yard run on the first play of the 2nd quarter. Edgar Ramirez added the extra point and Holcomb had the first lead, 7-0. It would be the Longhorns’ only scoring of the 1st half.

The teams traded punts until late in the half, when the Cardinals struck like lightning. After being pinned deep in their own territory, the Cardinals faced a third down at their 31 with only seconds remaining in the half. Then Voth shook off a couple of defenders, set himself and threw a deep pass to Logan Bartlett, who had gotten behind the secondary. Bartlett hauled it in around the Holcomb 20 and raced to the end zone, with 20 seconds left in the half. Bartlett added the extra point and the two teams went to the locker room tied at 7.

“The play right before half hurt us, giving up that big long play” Teeter admitted. “But our kids battled back. Our kids answered the bell each time.”

While the defenses ruled the 1st half, the offenses shined in the 2nd half. After forcing Holcomb to punt on the first series of the 2nd half, Cheney drove from its own 31 in six plays, with Voth hitting Dayton Higgs for an 18-yard TD pass and the Cardinals’ first lead of the game. Bartlett’s extra point made it a 14-7 game.

The Longhorns responded immediately, with Johnson finding Levi Knoll out of the backfield on a short pass, which Knoll turned into a 74-yard touchdown. Ramirez tied it at 14 with the PAT.

Cheney came right back, going 68 yards in just four plays, finishing the drive with a 37-yard TD pass from Voth to Luke Grace. The Cardinals were up 21-14 after the PAT.

The next drive may have decided the game. Early in the 4th quarter, the Longhorns crossed midfield and face 4th-and-2 at the Cardinal 43. Coach Kent Teeter elected to go for it and Knoll was stopped a foot short of the line-to-gain. Cheney took advantage, scoring in four plays, with running back Quincy Thomas breaking free for a 48-yard touchdown and a two-touchdown lead, 28-14.

The Longhorns fought back, going 68 yards in six plays, including a 31-yard pass completion to Edgar Ramirez. Kaden Johnson found Cooper Henson over the middle for a 30-yard touchdown and the Longhorns were back within 7, 28-21.

But the defense couldn’t completely stop Cheney as Bartlett hit a 24-yard field goal, putting the Cardinals up 31-21, with 3:30 to play.

Holcomb wasn’t done, driving 78 yards in nine plays and less than two minutes. Johnson found Henson for a 9-yard score and the Longhorns were within 3, 31-28, with 1:36 to play.

The Longhorns appeared to recover the onside kick, but were called for a penalty and had to re-kick, only to be called for penalties two more times. On the fourth try, the ball rolled out of bounds and Cheney took over at midfield. The Cardinals ran out the clock for the 31-28 win.

“How fun would that have been if we’d recovered the onside kick?” Teeter reflected.

The Cardinals had 409 yards total offense. Harrison Voth passed for 285 yards and three touchdowns, completing 14 of 24 attempts. He also led Cheney in rushing with 62 yards.

For Holcomb, Kaden Johnson connected on 21 of 31 passes for 320 yards and three TDs. The Longhorns also rushed for 84 yards to finish with 404 total yards of offense. Kaden Johnson led Holcomb with 48 yards rushing.

Each team committed one turnover, both in the 1st quarter. Each kicker was 4-for-4 on PATs.

In the end, Teeter kept coming back to how well-played and competitive the game was.

“A valiant effort,” Teeter said. “I thought we did a lot of great things.”

Up next for Holcomb, is a road trip to Pratt.

As Coach Teeter said, “Our next game is the most important.”

You can hear the Holcomb-Pratt game Friday night on KBUF 1030 AM, with pregame beginning at 6:30.