Collegiate knew all about Holton’s running game, all about its bruising but quick running backs.
The Spartans believed, though, that their quick-strike ability, speed and precision passing would counter Holton’s strengths in Saturday’s Class 4A second-round playoff game.
What Collegiate, ranked second in 4A, didn’t expect was its offense never getting into a rhythm. Or its offense consistently stymied by Holton’s secondary. Or only earning four plays of 11 or more yards.
Holton beat Collegiate 28-0 and 4A’s top-ranked team will play host on Friday to the winner of the Andale-McPherson game.
“They get a lot of credit offensively, but defensively they’re a very good team,” said Collegiate coach Mike Gehrer, whose team finishes at 9-2. “They took some stuff away from us that nobody has been able to do, with our passing game, just because of their defensive backs.
“…Their corners and safeties were outstanding. We’d go to pass down, and they’d drop eight into coverage. With only three down (on the line), they were able to do that.”
Collegiate quarterback Landon Root finished 13-of-24 passing for 72 yards and an interception.
“Our secondary got a lot of hands on the ball,” said Holton coach Brooks Barta, whose team is 11-0. “We had to … keep them in the pocket. They were a little bit of a run-first team, and we had to take away all that speed they had in the backfield.”
The Spartans’ inability to get big plays from Root, running back Isaiah Franklin and wide receiver Markus Phox was frustrating. Franklin had 22 carries for 94 yards, with just one run longer than nine yards.
“It was weird being out there and nothing was happening,” Phox said. “I wasn’t watching Isaiah run down the field. I think we were close to getting big plays. Just one shoe-string tackle from breaking it, and it’s a whole different game.”
Holton’s first two possessions resulted in a punt and a fumble at the Holton 44. But after the fumble recovery, Collegiate faced what would be a common theme — mistakes.
A false start preceded Root’s hurdling of a Holton player, which resulted in a 15-yard penalty and first-and-30. Two plays later, Collegiate fumbled after a 16-yard reception by Franklin.
After Holton scored the game’s first touchdown, a 29-yard run by Drake Ewing at the 3:56 mark of the first quarter, Collegiate drove to the Holton 16, and fumbled it on fourth-and-12.
Holton responded with a 19-play, 84-yard drive that was capped by Trent Tanking’s one-yard run. He also scored on a 28-yard run in the third quarter.
Ewing finished with 109 rushing yards, while Cameron Karn had 17 carries for 136 and a 56-yard scoring run.
“We were going along there and then two bad snaps or a dropped ball,” Gehrer said. “You can’t do those things. Those were things we needed to get a little momentum. We can’t go three and out, three and out because they wear on you (offensively). They’re strong, they’re physical.”
H – Ewing 29 run (Hampton kick)
H-Tanking 1 run (Hampton kick)
H-Tanking 28 run (Hampton kick)
H – Karn 56 run (Hampton kick)
Rushing—Holton, Karn 17-136, Ewing 16-109, Wilson 8-44, Tanking 3-35, Wright 7-26, Lassiter 4-16, Butto 1-(-1). Collegiate, Franklin 22-94, Root 12-22, Phox 6-(-3).
Passing—Holton, Wright 0-1-0-0. Collegiate, Root 13-24-72-1, Phox 0-2-0-0.
Receiving – Collegiate, Schoole4 3-32, Franklin 4-24, Phox 4-13, Fleming 2-13.