By BRETT MARSHALL
HOLCOMB — Before Thursday night's kickoff between the Holcomb Longhorns and Larned Indians, Jerry Johnson said he had several specific goals in mind for the final game of the regular season.
The Holcomb coach got his wish and more as the Longhorns struck quick, and often, dispatching the Indians, 41-6, at Holcomb High Stadium. Holcomb earned its first 4A state playoff appearance and finished off the regular season with a 7-2 record.
"I thought we executed well, played well, looked sharp with our varsity offense," Johnson said. "We've had guys step up all season, and tonight I thought they went out, did what we asked them to do, and they did it early."
Now the Longhorns will prepare to head to Buhler on Tuesday to face the No. 2-ranked Crusaders in a bi-district contest. That game will kick off at 7 p.m.
After the Longhorns' defense held Larned (0-9) on its' first possession, sophomore Heath Tucker took a pitch from Tyler LaSalle, broke free at the corner and raced 56 yards for a touchdown with 10:56 left in the opening quarter to make it 7-0.
"We just wanted to execute and play our game," Tucker said. "We wanted to put them down early, and the O-line just blocked the hard stuff. Without them, we wouldn't be scoring the points we do. They've really worked hard to make it work for us."
LaSalle passed for two touchdowns and ran for two more to ice the game early.
"He's been our dual threat all season, and when our O-line picks things up like they have, he's very dangerous," Johnson said.
Munoz would tack on a 4-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter to make it 35-0 at intermission.
LaSalle's touchdown passes covered nine yards to Joe Munoz in the first quarter, making it 14-0. His final touchdown pass was midway through the third quarter to Estrada from eight yards out. The junior quarterback also ran for scores of 11 and 35 yards.
For the game, LaSalle was completed 15-of-17 passes for 181 yards without an interception. He also had 61 yards on six carries; all in the first half.
"We're not big enough to be a grind it out offense," Johnson said. "If you look at our season, we've been a quick-strike offense and that's what we have to do to be successful."
Johnson liked that his first team didn't turn the ball over on offense and the defense didn't give up any points.
"We hit our passes, we ended it quickly and were able to rest people," Johnson said. "We were looking for that sharp execution and I thought we got what we wanted."
After substituting liberally in the second half, the teams struggled with turnovers as the Longhorns had eight fumbles, losing four, while Larned had two passes picked off. The Indians' Easton Palmer finished the game hitting 20-of-37 passes for 200 yards with two interceptions.
The victory enabled the Longhorns to go 2-1 in Class 4A District 14, losing only to Ulysses.
"We've lost to the No. 1 ranked 3A school (Scott City) and No. 4 ranked 4A school (Ulysses) so we've got nothing to lose when we go to Buhler," Johnson said. "Nobody expects us to win there, so we're just going to go, play our best and see if we can make it a game. We've got the speed if we get people in open space, we can make things happen."
Larned 0 0 0 6 -- 6
Holcomb 21 14 6 0 -- 41
H--Heath Tucker 56 run (J. Estrada kick), 10:56
H--Jose Munoz 9 pass from Tyler LaSalle (Estrada kick), 6:41
H--LaSalle 11 run (Estrada kick), 1:05.
H--LaSalle 35 run (Estrada kick), 5:06.
H--Jose Munoz 4 run (Estrada kick), 1:56.
H--Estrada 8 pass from LaSalle (kick failed), 7:48.
L--Brendon Lewis 11 pass from Easton Palmer (kick failed), 7:59.
First downs 8 14
Rushes-yards 34-(-31) 28-182
Passing yards 200 181
Passes 20-37-2 15-17-0
Penalties-yards 11-101 5-44
Fumbles-lost 4-0 8-4
RUSHING--Larned: Shoemaker 2-1, Wallace 13-14, Hardiman 3-(-4), Keith 8-(-14), Palmer 8-(-8); Holcomb: Tucker 1-56, LaSalle 6-61, Munoz 5-24, Estrada 2-(-13), Roth 12-46, Prieto 2-8.
PASSING--Larned: Palmer 20-37-2--200; Holcomb: LaSalle 15-17-0--181.
RECEIVING--Larned: Hardiman 3-21, Keith 3-20, Lewis 6-118, Wallace 3-22, Shoemaker 4-9, Smith 1-10; Holcomb: Estrada 4-39, Munoz 2-25, Gilbert 4-59, Homer 4-25, Tucker 1-32.