By Mike Courson
LINDSBORG, Kan. - Two one-loss teams, two different styles of offense. Only one could advance to the state semifinals in Class 4A, Div. II. In the end, Holcomb's offense and defense was too much for Smoky Valley in a 26-6 contest at Bethany College Friday night.
Smoky Valley senior Kyle Anderson entered the night with better than 1,300 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground. The Longhorn defense held Anderson to just 54 yards on 19 carries.
"We knew the defense was going to have to play really well," said Holcomb coach Kent Teeter. "It takes a complete defense. Our defensive line, we knew they were going to single block us a lot.
We had to get off blocks. Our linebackers had to fill well, and we knew our defensive backs couldn't give up any big passes."
The Longhorns brought a more balanced attack into the game and used the running game early on. Holcomb converted a fourth down on its second drive of the night, ultimately going to the air as senior Chance Rodriguez went 30 yards on a pass from senior Trey Gilbert before getting himself wide open in the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown catch with 1:16 to play in the first quarter.
Holcomb put together another big drive, this time converting two fourth downs before junior Reece Morss scored from 10 yards out. The Longhorns led 12-0 with nine minutes to play in the opening half.
"When we run the ball, it opens up Trey throwing the ball - he's a great quarterback - to our awesome wide receivers," said senior running back and linebacker Kaden Tichenor, who rushed for 37 yards on the night. "Our running backs, whenever they take away the pass we just run right up the middle. The linemen are awesome."
Late in the first half, the Longhorns took advantage of a Carter Blackburn interception. Just a few plays later, Gilbert found senior Andrew Morss in the corner of the end zone for a 25-yard strike. The 20-0 lead carried into the half.
Smoky Valley managed just 30 yards of total offense in the first half. The Vikings began to move the ball in the second half, but three times the Longhorn defense stood up to keep the Vikings out on four-straight tries from inside the 10.
Holcomb, meanwhile, scored on its first drive of the third quarter when Reece Morss busted in from four yards out. Anderson finally found the end zone for Smoky Valley on a 1-yard run with under three minutes to play.
Gilbert, who entered the game with nearly 1,700 yards passing on the season, had another big night with 173 yards, two touchdowns, and his sixth interception of the year on 13-of-17 passing. He also paced the Longhorns with 52 yards on six carries. Rodriguez caught six balls for 91 yards and a score, and Andrew Morss had five receptions for 67 yards and a touchdown.
Anderson led the Vikings with his 54 yards on the ground, and quarterback Brett Heitschmidt added 50 yards on six carries, including a 37-yard run.
Smoky Valley ends its season at 9-2. Holcomb moves to 10-1 overall heading into next Friday's sub-state rematch with Scott City. The Beavers are responsible for Holcomb's one loss of the season, a 23-14 battle clear back in week two of the season.
"We played them in week two," Teeter said. "We were up in the first quarter, then they passed us in the second quarter. We know it's going to be a really great atmosphere. They're a good ball club and we just thank God we get to play them again."
Holcomb powers past Smoky Valley
By Mike Courson