By KEVIN THOMPSON
HOLCOMB — After losing the opening round of district play last week, Lakin was in a fight to stay alive for postseason play.
But it also put more pressure on the Broncs in their rivalry with Holcomb on the Longhorns’ field.
Live to fight another day, or lose and stay home.
The host Longhorns had their own plans, however, as they picked up district win number two with a 34-17 win over the Broncs on Friday.
Despite playing without injured junior Heath Tucker (nine touchdowns scored this season), the Longhorns (now 7-1, 2-0) unloaded an arsenal of other weapons in the win and securing a spot in the postseason.
Chief among those was quarterback Tyler LaSalle, who rushed 20 times for 239 yards in the first three quarters.
Aaron Hernandez, who scored three times, carried the ball 2 yards for Holcomb’s first score, just over two minutes in.
Six minutes later, after Lakin’s Pedro Chavez connected for a 35-yard field goal, LaSalle outran the defense up the Lakin sideline for a 63-yard score.
He then gave Holcomb a boost with a short run with just under four minutes to play to put the Longhorns up 21-3 at the half.
By halftime Holcomb had out-gained Lakin 277 yards to 148, including 167 alone by LaSalle, while the defense held the daunting running game of the Broncs to just 77 first-half yards.
Holcomb finished the game with 456 total yards, with just four gained in the final quarter,which the Broncs controlled.
Hernandez scored two more times from two yards out in the third period that gave Holcomb a 34-10 lead.
Lakin controlled the final period, running 27 plays, but scoring just once on a Gage McAtee 2-yard run.
McAtee and Ty Adams, both averaging over 100 yards on the ground, were held to 115 combined for the game, but Lakin was held to just 167 rushing yards, or 120 under its season average.
Holcomb coach Jerry Johnson was happy with the win — and the Longhorns’ offense specifically — but he knows they have some issues to sort out before hosting Cimarron on Thursday for the district title.
“Our offense did well. I thought we played what we wanted to do,” he said. “We executed really well.”
But the word after the game was “sloppy,” something to work on, he said.
“Especially after we don’t score we get sloppy,” Johnson said. “I don’t know if it’s a lack of focus or what, but we’ve got to figure it out before we go much further.”
A district title means a home game to start the playoffs, and that’s a big deal, Johnson said.
For the most part, he said, his defense played well, stopping Lakin a number of times and keeping them out of the end zone.
But the Longhorn pass defense got exposed a bit, especially in the final period when Caleb Seeger hit 10-of-12 passes before throwing an end zone interception.
“We knew it would be tough. I was proud of the defense stopping the run, but the passing ‘D’ is something we’ve got to work on,” Johnson said.
The touchdown right before the half was huge, psychologically, he said.
“Lakin’s a good team. I told our kids being up 21-3 on a good team, that was a good position to be in,” Johnson said.
For Lakin coach Jeff Fuss, preparing the Broncs to stop LaSalle was hard.
“Not only do they have a couple of kids who can break it for 50, but they can spread the field. And we had kids in proper places tonight to make a play, but LaSalle just makes some moves, we stand there, and he’s gone,” he said. “We had a difficult time on that kid.”
Compound that with the Lakin players dealing with the unexpected death of former basketball coach Greg Reed earlier in the week and the Friday morning funeral. Both proved emotionally taxing, but Fuss was proud of how his team responded.
“We talked about trying to start fast, but after the week we’ve had--I’m not a moral victory guy, and I’m not happy we got beat, but I’m proud of the way our kids played,” he said. “It would have been easy to fold up after that first quarter.”
Holcomb hosts Cimarron (7-1, 2-0) Thursday for the District 16 title, and the right to host the first-round of playoffs.
The Broncs (4-4, 0-2) hosts the Southwestern Heights Mustangs Thursday in the “Battle for the Golden Saddle.”
Lakin 3 0 7 7 — 17
Holcomb 14 7 13 0 — 3
H—Hernandez 2 run (Guerrero kick) 9:28
L—Chavez 35 FG 3:50
H—LaSalle 63 run (Guerrero kick) 3:30
H—LaSalle 3 run (Guerrero kick) 3:36
H—Hernandez 2 run (Guerrero kick) 4:35
L—Adams 4 run (Chavez kick) 1:34
H—Hernandez 2 run (kick failed) :00
L—McAtee 3 run (Chavez kick) 6:55
First downs 15 17
Rushing yds 342 167
Passing yds 114 206
Total yds 456 373
Comp-Att 8-17 17-30
Punts 2 3
Fumbles-lost 1-0 0-0
Penalties-yds 6-40 6-45
RUSHING — Lakin: McAtee 16-58, Adams 14-57, Seeger 4-20; Holcomb: LaSalle 25-244, Hernandez 8-64, Richmeier 2-31.
PASSING — Lakin: Seeger 17-30-3-206; Holcomb: LaSalle 8-17-1-114.
RECEIVING — Lakin: Shalberg 8-83, Adams 2-39; Holcomb: Cox 3-41.