By KEVIN THOMPSON
LAKIN — It's called the Battle for the Golden Saddle, a football game between league rivals.
The stakes were high Thursday night in a battle between wild-horse mascots.
On the line was a playoff spot between the Lakin Broncs and Southwestern Heights Mustangs.
Winner moves on while loser's season ends.
After a 2-7 record last year, the Broncs turned things around, going 4-5.
More importantly, they went 2-1 in the district with a 25-6 win over visiting Heights Thursday to claim second place in the district and a berth in the playoffs.
Redemption, pure and simple.
After a sluggish first half that saw the score knotted at six, and the same score after three, Lakin struck big. Bryant Miller hit Chandon Moreno for a 14-yard strike over the middle at 8:56.
Moreno scored again with 3:39 left on a 2-yard run to cap an eight-play drive.
Then with 1:04 left, Miller hit Reno Armstrong on a 24-yard play to make it 25-6 and put the finishing touches on the victory.
It was a tough night physically for Moreno, who went down with a cramp following a 50-yard run that was negated by a holding call. But he returned and carried the team.
"I was just praying that I'd go back in, and I did," Moreno said who finished the night with 126 yards rushing.
Moreno said the first half, replete with three turnovers, was not the game plan.
"But coach told us at halftime, if we kept it up after playing that bad, we should kick them," he said. "And that's what we did."
Heights had struck first with an Ivan Chavez 55-yard run up the middle, but that was all the offense the Mustangs (2-7, 1-2) would have.
Lakin (4-5, 2-1) scored its first touchdown in the second quarter on a two-play drive, starting with Moreno's 55-yard run that set up a Miller to Cody Kinnier 14-yard pass.
After a fumble recovery on the kickoff, Lakin drove to the two-yard line but Miller's pass was picked off in the end zone.
That's the kind of night it could have been, if not for the regrouping at halftime.
"We were frustrated in the first half, but we calmed them down at halftime," said coach Jeff Fuss. "We told them to stick with the game plan and we didn't panic."
Fuss said it would have been easy to lose composure after that first half, but his team started clicking and making things happen because his team had something to play for and his large senior class didn't want to go out on a loss in a game that counted this much.
Fuss, returning to Lakin after a nine-year stint at Pratt, now has his team in the playoffs.
Playing at Phillipsburg on Tuesday at 7 p.m. will be a challenge, but he said it's a welcome one.
"We can't make mistakes," Fuss said. "Phillipsburg will good enough to capitalize on them.
"There are going to be 32 teams sitting at home tomorrow, and we're not one of them."
And they have the saddle to prove it.
SWH 6 0 0 0 -- 6
Lakin 0 6 0 19 -- 25
SWH — I. Chavez 55 run (run failed), 2:25
L — Kinnier 40 pass from Miller (run failed), 5:13
L — Moreno 14 pass from Miller (kick failed), 8:56
L — Moreno 2 run (Chavez kick), 3:39
L — Armstrong 24 pass from Miller (kick failed), 1:04
Rushes 43-218 38-175
Passing 11-19-186 4-15-49
Total yards 404 224
Turnovers 3 1
Penalties-yds 6-49 8-53
Punts 3-38.7 5-31.8
RUSHING — Lakin: Moreno 14-126, Geubelle 9-38, Miller 8-31, Armstrong 1-13; SWH: Johnsrud 15-57, R. Chavez 15-35, Martinez 1-22.
PASSING — Lakin: Miller 11-19-1-186; SWH: Dutton 3-11-034, Johnsrud 1-4-0-15.
RECEIVING — Lakin: Armstrong 7-121, McAtee 1-25, Moreno 2-23, Kinnier 1-14; SWH: Worsham 1-15, R. Chavez 1-14, Herrera 1-13.