The start of Tuesday night's Class 3A playoff game started off with a treat for the Lakin Broncs (7-3) and their fans as senior Dawsen Shalberg returned the opening kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown and gave the Broncs an early lead over the Larned Indians in the bi-district championship game in Larned.
It would prove to be the lone highlight for the Broncs, as the rest of the game was filled as Halloween turned into tricks as they were unable to get anything else going and fell to the Indians 42-6.
Although the Broncs did not finish the season on a high note, that does not stop head coach Chris Bamberger from looking back at the season and holding his head up high.
“We are proud of this team," Bamberger said. "It obviously doesn't feel good to be done at this point, but the seniors worked hard, trusted in each other, and we couldn't be prouder of our seniors for leading this season.”
The running game proved to be the difference in the game as the Indians rushed for 434 yards on 45 carries. This prevented the Broncs from getting a rhythm on offense and leaving the defense out there for the majority of the game. The running game shredded a Bronc defense which was only allowing 15.4 points per game
The Larned defense also played a big part in the win on Tuesday as they kept senior Lakin quarterback Hunter Kirby underwraps all game as he finished the game with minus-32 yards rushing and only completed one pass on eight attempts for 7 yards. This also translated in the Indians keeping the Broncs under their season average of points per game which stood at 35.2 points per game before Tuesday.
The loss on Tuesday also continues a string of losses for the Broncs in the postseason. Lakin has not won a playoff game since 1999.
During the 2017 season, the Broncs did take a step forward, improving on their 2016 record of 5-5 to 7-3, and making their second consecutive playoff game and their first winning season under Bamberger. Bamberger credits his seniors for the step forward his team took this year.
“(This) step that was earned for the seniors," Bamberger said. "They bought in on what we were coaching and most importantly they believed in each other.
“The seniors were playing a lot of snaps as sophomores, which gave them experience. They also gained the experience in the weight room and they learned to work hard.”
Bamberger has a young team next year, so his plan would be to see them back in the playoffs next year.
“We have a good core of young kids," Bamberger said. "We don't have a big team, so many of these younger guys are getting a lot of playing time at a young age, just like many of our seniors did.”