HOLCOMB — Hugoton’s hopes for hosting a playoff game were realized Friday when the Eagles took out Holcomb, 14-7.
And with that loss, Holcomb’s hopes for finishing second in the district turned into finishing fifth and out of the playoffs.
Hugoton broke a 7-7 tie held from the first quarter with a touchdown in the final period to finish 4-1 in district play and host Beloit Friday.
Jeff Persinger fell on a ball fumbled into the end zone to account for the winning score.
With 7:51 to play in the game, Dawson Kerbow ran the ball 3 yards up the middle from the 3-yard line, where the ball popped loose, into the fortunate Persinger’s hands.
Holcomb had a chance to tie or go for the win on the ensuing drive.
Starting at their own 19, the ‘Horns picked up five first downs to the Hugoton 13.
A Peyton Orton run to the 6 was negated by a holding call, and then a pass was knocked down.
Ortner found River Amos on a 9-yard pass, bringing up fourth-and-four.
The duo connected again, but for only 2 yards, and Hugoton fulfilled its playoff wish.
“It was tough. We told these guys from the get-go that Holcomb might not make the playoffs, and they’d play hard,” first-year coach Nick O’Loughlin said.
The Hugoton alum told his team there was a lot of work left after they got the opening score.
“I told them we had to play hard for four quarters, and that’s what it came down to,” he said.
Holcomb turned the ball over three times on fumbles in the first half, the first of which led to the first Eagle score.
Starting at the 47, Hugoton capped a five-play drive when quarterback Riggs Martin found Jagger Hertel in the end zone, dropping a wobbly pass into triple coverage for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
Holcomb bounced right back, though.
On their next series, the ‘Horns started at their own 21-yard line, but marched down the field. On their sixth play, Peyton Ortner laid a pass out to River Amos over the middle.
Amos reached for the slightly high pass, got it, and raced untouched 40 yards for the tying score at 3:08.
That was it for scoring the rest of the way until the Persinger pickup.
Kerbow, who broke his ankle in the third game of the season, made up for lost playing time in just his second game back, rushing for 195 yards on 25 carries, including a 59-yarder on his team’s final series.
This was the first win over Holcomb for the Hugoton seniors, a motivator for his team this week, O’Loughlin said.
“I’m very proud of my team and glad they stepped up at the right time,” he said.
The final defensive stand was one indicator of what has helped his team overcome an 0-3 start.
“Our defense has been the backbone of our team. They probably have 15 stops inside the 10-yard line this year,” O’Loughlin said. “They know when to crank it up when they need to. We have some good playmakers.”
It was a do-or-die situation for Holcomb coach Kent Teeter, with so much riding on getting a win.
“Defense played well all night long,” he said. “We had the opportunities.”
But it was lost opportunities inside the red zone, including a drive late the third that stalled at the 12. Holcomb tried a field goal, but it was blocked.
On their next possession, the Longhorns got to the 15-yard line, but that drive ended in a penalty, a sack and an interception by Hertel.
“We put ourselves in a position to win this game,” Teeter said. “We just didn’t.”
Hugoton (4-4, 4-1) will host Beloit (6-3, 4-2) in its playoff game Friday.
Holcomb (3-5) will travel to Goodland (1-7) to finish off the season.