HUGOTON — Last season when these two teams met in the final regular season game, it was a foregone conclusion that Hugoton would stay home while Holcomb continued into the playoffs.
This year, the scenario was a bit different, with both teams 2-0 in district play, fighting for a top seed and home game in the playoffs.
On a damp and chilly night, it was the visiting Longhorns taking care of business, defeating Hugoton 27-12, guaranteeing themselves a home game in the playoffs next Friday against Concordia (6-3).
The ‘Horns won in every category on their way to the solid win.
They out-gained the Eagles 301 yards to 159.
They had 16 first downs to the Eagles’ three.
And they cut their penalties to just four for 26 yards.
All in all, a pretty good win for coach Kent Teeter’s squad, which moved to 7-2 (3-0 in districts).
Defense dictated the action from the outset, forcing a punt on the first four series.
Meanwhile, Holcomb controlled the ball with a solid running game. Thirty-four of their 43 plays were rushes (169 yards) with 132 passing yards for balance.
On the other side, Hugoton’s high-powered offense (329 yards a game) found itself at just about half that (165 yards) for the game.
“Our defense was solid tonight like it has been all year long,” Teeter said. “We’re really excited about that.”
The first-series stop was key in setting the tone, he said.
“What it did was give us field position. That was big all night long,” he said. “And we didn’t give them any big plays on special teams, and they’re used to getting those big plays.”
Brandon Stegman had three rushing touchdowns, giving him nine for the season.
His first came from five yards at the 7:09 mark in the first quarter. He added another at 2:46 in the second. His third came with six seconds left in the third.
“It’s easy to explain, really,” Stegman said of his stellar effort. “When you have a great offensive line like I do, there’s no stopping you. Just put a hand on those big boys and watch them go.”
Holding onto the ball was key in the cool, damp conditions, as well, he said.
“I was making that a big deal when we were coming out for warmup,” Stegman said. “I told all my receivers and all my backs two hands, don’t let them strip you. I made it a point not to fumble tonight.”
Dillon Williams got the final score on a second-effort 1-yard plunge after he was initially hit in the backfield.
“I thought Brandon ran the ball well,” Teeter said, as did Dillon Williams (11-39), Trey Teeter (9-26) and Kaden Tichenor (4-27). “We knew that, with conditions, we weren’t going to air it out 30 times this game.”
Hugoton got on the board late in the first half. On the third play after Stegman’s second score, Valentino Degollado threw a bomb to Zack Leininger, who caught the ball for a 62-yard score.
Three plays later, Hugoton recovered a fumble at the Holcomb 35 with under a minute to play, but Braden Showalter intercepted a pass near the goal line and returned it to the 25, where the ‘Horns ran out the clock.
Their second score came in the fourth after a 12-yard pass to Parker Titus on 4th-and-10 kept a drive alive. Three plays later, Degollado ran it in from six yards.
Though a loss, it was a far cry from last year’s 55-6 loss at Holcomb, and it means the Eagles were a much-improved team, coach Todd Fulton said.
“It was frustrating because we had high expectations. Our kids are starting to believe that they expect to win,” he said. “That’s changing the culture, and that’s how we’ve approached every game that way.”
Hugoton (4-5, 2-1) had won three straight games before the loss to Holcomb.
“It’s going to hurt a little,” Fulton said. “But we have to bounce back. We saw some things we need to do. We still have some things we need to get better at. The excitement is, our season’s not done.”
Hugoton will go on the road Friday to face Great West Activities Conference foe Colby, also 4-5. Hugoton won the regular season matchup 27-8 in Hugoton.
Holcomb will face Concordia at home Friday as a result of Friday’s win. Kickoff is tentatively scheduled for 7 p.m.
“It’s a great experience, being able to play at home,” Stegman said. “Home field advantage with all our student section showing up — it’s great.”
Holcomb 6 8 7 6 — 27
Hugoton 0 6 0 6 — 12
HOL—Stegman 5 run (pass failed), 7:09
HOL—Stegman 6 run (Teeter pass to VanCleave), 2:46
HUG—Degollado 62 pass to Leininger (pass failed), 1:30
HOL—Stegman 6 run (Teeter kick), :06
HOL—Williams 1 run (pass failed), 5:56
HUG—Degollado 6 run (pass failed), 3:35
Rushing—Holcomb: Stegman 12-82, Williams 11-39, Teeter 9-26, Tichenor 6-23; Hugoton: Degollado 12-44, Heger 6-10.
Passing—Holcomb: Teeter 9-14-0-132: Hugoton: Degollado 7-17-1-111.
Receiving—Holcomb: Merz 4-87, Stegman 3-28, Mongeau 1-9, VanCleave 1-8; Hugoton: Bustillos 3-18, Heger 1-13, Leininger 1-62, Titus 1-12.