By KEVIN THIMPSON
LAKIN — It was just the second game of district playoffs, but it had all the implications of a title game.
And the action matched the atmosphere in a rivalry game as Holcomb pulled away from a tie at halftime to defeat Lakin 41-26 on the road.
With the win, Holcomb (5-3) is now 2-0 in district and guaranteed to host a first-round game, while Lakin (4-4) falls to 1-1 and needs to win next Thursday to stay in contention for the playoffs.
Holcomb's Heath Tucker scored five of his team's six touchdowns, including an 89-yard punt return near the end of the first quarter.
But it was three short plunges in the second half, and Dalton Gottschalk's interception for a score, that pulled the Longhorns away from a scrappy Broncs squad that actually out-gained the victors.
Tucker, who started at quarterback, rushed 30 times for 200 yards, many of those from the backfield, where he could hit the open lanes better, he said.
"I'm farther away from the line so I can hit the lanes harder," the senior said. "And it works because I get to get behind Blake (Richmeier) and our line. They deserve all the credit — I just run the ball.
With running back senior Corey Rupp out for the season with an ACL injury, Tucker said he and his teammates want to win for him, and this game was a good showing.
Holcomb scored on its first drive, a 10-play, 85-yard drive capped by a Tucker 2-yard run.
On their next score, Tucker exploded past the defense with just 20 seconds left in the quarter.
That followed a Lakin score by senior Robert Aparicio, who took a handoff at the 29 up the middle, broke two tackles and ran it in.
The Broncs tied the game with a 13-play drive that consumed 5 minutes, 37 seconds, culminating in a Wyatt Burnett 2-yard run.
That tied the game at halftime, but turnovers proved the Broncs' undoing in the second half as Holcomb capitalized.
Jared Burrows recovered a Longhorn fumble, but the Longhorns' Aaron Hernandez picked off Caleb Seeger's pass, which set up another Tucker run to put Holcomb up 21-14 midway into the third.
After a pass interference call gave the Broncs the ball at their own 35 on the next series, Jacob Ramsey picked up a fumble to get the ball back.
Aparicio picked off a Tucker pass on the next drive but Lakin had to punt, leading to Tucker's fourth score.
Wyatt Burnett broke off a 65-yard run on the ensuing series, setting up McAtee for a score. But Tucker scored a fifth time on Holcomb's next series to put the game out of reach.
Coach Jerry Johnson was pleased with his Longhorns' play most of the time, but too many penalties (eight flags for 65 yards) stopped too many drives, and at this point in the season, that's too many, Johnson said.
But the defense contained Lakin's main threat in McAtee, holding the senior to just 45 yards on 14 carries. Though, the pass defense gave up 164 yards, including a 52-yard scoring play to Aparicio in the fourth quarter.
"That's a testament that we're good up the middle on defense," Johnson said of stopping McAtee. "But it also means we need to work on our pass defense."
Part of that was Seeger throwing a tight ball. So at halftime, the defense made the adjustment to a man pressure and forced him to run, Johnson said.
Rupp did a great job managing the game once he took over at quarterback, he added, which comes from getting him playing time at that spot earlier in the season for these late-season games.
That bodes well for Holcomb as they prepare for Cimarron next Thursday, and to host a first-round bi-district game the following Tuesday, when it's important to have players healthy, Johnson said.
Lakin coach Jeff Fuss said the mistakes of the interceptions — and Holcomb executing in the second half just a bit better than the Broncs — made the difference, as did Tucker.
"He's a difference-maker," Fuss said. "There were times when we had him stopped but we needed 12 kids to stop him."
Fuss said his team made the correct adjustments at halftime, but they just didn't execute well enough in closing the running lanes in time.
"We felt good about where we were at halftime," he said. "We just didn't get it done. I feel bad for the kids, but it was a really fun game with two great teams getting hard at each other and playing to the end."
Lakin will play at Southwestern Heights Thursday, and a win means their season continues.
"It would have been nice to control our own destiny," he said. "But we take care of business Thursday and it will be a privilege and a blessing to play in the playoffs. It doesn't matter who."
Holcomb 14 0 7 20 -- 41
Lakin 6 8 0 12 -- 26
Hol--Tucker 3 run (run failed), 7:36
Lak--Aparicio 29 run (run failed), :35
Hol--Tucker 89 punt return (Tucker run), :20
Lak--Burnett 1 run (Seeger to Armstrong), 6:43
Hol--Tucker 1 run (Guerrero kick), 5:44
Hol--Tucker 2 run (Guerrero kick), 11:55
Lak--McAtee 5 run (pass failed), 10:38
Hol--Tucker 1 run (Guerrero kick), 7:55
Hol--Gottschalk 37 interception return (PAT failed), 5:34
Lak--Aparicio 52 pass from Seeger (pass failed), 3:25
Total yards 323 348
Passing yards 56 164
Rushing yards 267 184
First downs 16 15
Pen.-yards 8-65 105
Punts-avg. 1-51 4-32
Fumbles-lost 1-1 1-1
Time 23:26 24:34
RUSHING--Holcomb: Tucker 30-200, Richmeier 13-64, Rupp 4-3; Lakin: Burnett 8-82, McAtee 14-45, Aparicio 4-33.
PASSING--Holcomb: Tucker 3-6-1-55, Rupp 1-2-0-1; Lakin: Seeger 11-19-2-164.
RECEIVING--Holcomb: Rupp 2-38; Lakin: Armstrong 5-72, Aparicio 1-52, Esquivel 1-23.