Second half surge propels Holton past Lansing
Lions were within 10-7 at halftime
The Lansing High football team spent all week talking about how it was going to pull off the greatest upset in Kansas.
The Lions convinced themselves that they could be the team to boot the No. 1-ranked Holton Wildcats from the playoffs.
For 24 minutes Saturday night it looked like the Lions would make their dream a reality. They had the Wildcats reeling by halftime and they had the momentum and they had the standing-room-only crowd in both shock and awe at the effort they put forth.
The final 24 minutes returned to business as usual for Holton, however. The Wildcats rattled off four touchdowns of more than 45 yards and pulled away for the regional playoff victory at Frank Graham Field.
Holton 36, Lansing 7.
"We did a great job in the first half. We just didn't continue to do it in the second half and it cost us," LHS coach Bill Pekarek said.
Holton won last year's regional playoff game against Lansing, 69-22, but this year's pairing wouldn't be nearly as lopsided. The Lions made sure that was clear early in the first quarter as they forced the Wildcats to go three-and-out on their first two possessions of the game. Defensive linemen Jason Bowman and Brett Wessel busted through the middle to put pressure in the backfield, and linebackers David Kern, Jeff Slater, Lance Fink and Joe Kohl broke through the line to stuff the run.
Holton led last year's contest 21-0 after the first quarter. This year the game was scoreless after the first 12 minutes.
"We had the game plan to tackle everybody," Fink said. "We had our assignments and we played a good first half."
Lions fall to Holton in playoffs
The Lansing High football team dropped a 36-7 decision to No. 1-ranked Holton in the Class 4A regional championship game on Saturday night at LHS.
The Wildcats (11-0) finally put points on the board when Andres Robayo nailed a 21-yard field goal with 9:47 left in the second quarter. The lead grew to 10-0 when senior tailback Nick Allen broke off a 39-yard touchdown run with 5:55 left in the half.
Lansing (9-2) turned to its passing game on the ensuing possession and quickly found success. Senior quarterback Matt Warner connected with Kern for an eight-yard gain. Slater followed with a five-yard run. Then Warner fired down the sideline to Slater, whose one-handed grab in double-coverage gave LHS a first down at midfield. Passes to J.T. Collins, Ryan Robbins and Steve Lillard put Lansing in the red zone. Warner fired a nine-yard strike to Kern for a touchdown that made the score 10-7 with 20 seconds left in the half.
Lansing caught Holton by surprise when it tried an onside kick. Sophomore Justin Smith recovered it and gave LHS one more crack at the end zone. Warner's deep pass to Kern was intercepted, but the Lions had momentum going into halftime.
"Our defense did an amazing job," Warner said. "I never thought we'd be able to hold them to 10 points in one half."
Lansing got the ball to start the second half, and it drove 34 yards to the Holton 46 before the drive sputtered out. It didn't take long for the momentum to shift.
The Wildcats went 84 yards in five plays, capped by a 47-yard breakaway up the middle by junior Aaron King. The extra point attempt failed, but the lead grew to 16-7. Warner had a pass tipped and intercepted on the next possession. That led to a 56-yard touchdown run by Allen. Another pick and another 56-yard run by Allen upped the Wildcats' lead to 29-7 late in the third quarter.
"I think we just got better," Holton coach Brooks Barta said. "We're a physical football team and we're good in the second half, and I think we just played a little better. (Lansing's) got some good athletes. They've got them in the right position and we had to find some holes somewhere else, and we did that."
Lansing tried to rally in the fourth quarter. Warner connected with Fink on a screen pass that went for 53 yards to the Holton 24, but that was as close as LHS would come to the end zone. Allen added another 56-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter that pushed the score to 36-7.
Allen rushed 22 times for 291 yards and four touchdowns. King added 127 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries.
Fink was Lansing's leading rusher with 29 yards on 11 carries. Warner completed 15 of 34 passes for 176 yards and a touchdown. Kern had five catches for 45 yards. Fink had two catches for 57 yards.
Holton piled up 463 yards of total offense to 224 by Lansing, but the Wildcats' 36-point effort was its second-lowest output of the year.
- Junior linebacker Joe Kohl led Lansing with 16 tackles. He finished the season with a team-high 138 stops. His four fumble recoveries and five interceptions also were the most by any Lion this year.
- Seniors Ryan Robbins and Lance Fink had seven tackles apiece.
- For the year, Fink led LHS with 706 yards on 133 carries. Junior Kyle Grape rushed for 418 yards on 109 carries.
- Senior quarterback Matt Warner finished the year with 1410 yards passing. He completed 92 of 178 attempts and threw 17 touchdown passes.
- Robbins finished the year with 98 tackles and a team-high 12 quarterback sacks.